Primary Teachers

What did the Primary teachers have to say…

…about marking and assessment?

“[AfL] is something that we started developing last year so my kids…could tell me where they were, maybe not levels, but where they were…”

“I think we’re putting it into more subjects now so that the children are getting used to it… It’s…not looking at levels, but looking at the criteria…and where to go next, where to go next to go even further.”

“We don’t say to the children, ‘This is very basic. This is really high.’ We group them. ‘Which do you think you are able to do to challenge yourself?’ So I think the children are able to say ‘I am here but I want to challenge myself. I’m going to do this’…so that is how they assess themselves…”

“[AfL] is tricky sometimes, especially with the younger ones…the vocab in the criteria, making it child-friendly so they do understand.”

“I place little value on levels…it’s an arbitrary number plucked from the sky and it’s an arbitrary number on the ladder of arbitrary numbers and…the only thing that they need to focus on is the progress that their child makes from the day they walk into my classroom to the day they leave my classroom. … And we’ll look at progress and that’s all I focus on. Levels mean nothing to me.”

“[Abandoning levels] would definitely be liberating, because then you’re going to open up the children to show their progress or their creativity or whatever they are interested in getting better at. It’s very free. They’ve got no boundaries…”

“These kids are very able and when they’re doing things particularly in maths, maths is a universal language and when it comes to calculations they can work them out like that but, put vocabulary in front of those calculations then they start to doubt themselves … I think as long as you are aware…”

“…I remember teaching…a Korean student in this school, she came with absolutely no English at all. But I could see in the class she got frustrated because she wanted to show me what she could do in the lesson. I could tell she was quite gifted, she was very clever but she couldn’t show me everything because that was a language barrier there for her. … She didn’t feel ‘Oh, I can’t do this. I’m gonna give up.’ But it was frustrating for her.”

“I’ve never had a kid doubt their ability because we always tell them how great they are. You know, ‘you’ve done this. This is what you can do. To make yourself even better you may need to do this’. So they all may know they are good. They all may know that these are the things that are going to make them get better.”

“I was just thinking the younger ones…have told me ‘I’m just amazing…’ And then, as they get older, they are more critical and it kind of depends on each child and what pressure they get from home and from their background and what they go to after school. ‘I must do this, I’m a perfectionist. I’m never any good, because I’m always trying to do more.’”

“…they are comparing themselves to the level on the tests. I mean ‘I must be like this to be good, it must mean that I must answer all these questions. If I can’t, I’m not good…’”

“I hate levels, I’ve said it before. I don’t think they have any place in the classroom. I mean they are fine for me but I don’t think children should be aware of them. I would like the system…where the lowest ability kid in my class, can make the same amount of progress as the highest ability, so all that they are aware of is progress made, not ….”

…about the curriculum?

“…part of the reason I became a teacher, I’m creative, I enjoy doing things with children, learn, have fun. Sometimes you can be bogged down and…pressured, we’ve got to do this skill, we’ve got to do that, we’ve got to reach that level… rather than ‘OK, let’s just do it in a nice, fun way, no pressure…”

“‘I don’t like a teacher to be…crazy all the time. I like to know I’ve got a routine and that kind of thing.’ So kids want that sometimes, they want to feel safe, secure, the routine so they could make good choices.”

“…an element of freedom within the curriculum, children making choices, I think that’s really a nice thing. I’d like to work there in that kind of school.”

“I love learning both maths and science and mixing them together and I think the kids like that too. It shows a transference of skills that I can measure but it also makes them feel really good about themselves.”

“…a strong element of child-initiated learning…where they have the freedom to explore avenues that I would never have normally thought of…”

…about Democratic Education?

“I think that is a completely alien concept for me. I have no idea, I mean I’ve grown up with mainstream education and I have taught my entire career in mainstream education.”

“I think it may have a place. I don’t know. Because if you give children too much freedom, they can’t cope.”

“…you could do half and half – half mainstream, half [democratic education] and so then you have that formal education where you can coordinate the progress that they are making and monitor that progress but then they also have the freedom to explore and learn.”

“From my experience of doing [child-initiated learning], some children loved it and they were asking questions ‘Can I do this, can I do that, how can I do that?’ and problem-solving and really working well. There are some children, though, they couldn’t cope with freedom and they had wrong choices, they would misbehave, they would choose the easy things, they weren’t challenging themselves.”

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