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Busting statutory moderation myths: Expert insights for teachers

  • by: Laura Bailey, former school leader, experienced moderation manager and Pobble's Head of Moderation and Assessment.
  • On: 11, Apr 2024
58 min read

Every year, as we head into the final term of the year, I speak with Year 6 teachers who tell me they are nervous about being selected for statutory external moderation. We unpick together what is causing the anxiety and time and time again I find out that these fears are based on myths and misconceptions that have been picked up via social media or passed on fears from a friend of a friend.
There is a myth that “you need to do things differently if you think you will be chosen for moderation”.
This is simply not the case!

A minimum of 25% of Year 6 settings will be selected for statutory external moderation sessions. These sessions take place in June, with the earliest notification being May 17th. External moderation gives confidence that schools’ teacher assessment judgements are accurate and consistent with national standards. This collaborative process provides teachers a chance to celebrate their writers and discuss judgements on pupils’ performance against the requirements of the KS2 Teacher Assessment frameworks. 

So, what do I need to do to prepare in case you are selected as part of this 25%?

Well, the honest answer is nothing that you are not already doing! Year 6 teachers in maintained schools, academies and participating independent schools have a statutory obligation to make TA judgements using the TA frameworks. These TA judgements must be accurate and robust, regardless of whether you have been selected for moderation or not. You will use the same TA framework, with the same guidance and the same final TA deadline. Therefore, the only difference is that you will be given an opportunity to have a professional discussion with an external moderator, in addition to the internal moderation that will be taking place in your school ahead of the June 28th TA deadline. 

The KS2 Teacher Assessment Guidance clearly states “The best way for a school to prepare for an external moderation visit is to have robust internal assessment processes. These should be based on teachers’ understanding of the TA frameworks and collaboration with other schools, where possible.”

The most common moderation myths I tackle:

Myth: If I am not selected for moderation I can make a best-fit judgement

Regardless of whether you are selected for moderation or not you are making a secure fit, not best fit, assessment judgement using the relevant Teacher Assessment Framework for each child (or the engagement model for those not involved in subject-specific study). It is important that you know and understand the standards. The best way to do this is to revisit the exemplification materials, and every year if you can, join some Year 6 focussed CPD led by a moderation manager who, as part of training, will give you access to various writing collections created by the Standards and Testing Agency. 

The guidance on particular weakness, relevant if you are selected for external moderation or not, is not to be mistaken for making a ‘best fit judgement’. Discussions as to whether you deem the pupil to have a particular weakness must be talked about during internal moderation, not just if you are externally moderated. 

The KS2 Teacher Assessment Guidance 2024 states:
"A teacher must still assess a pupil against all ‘pupil can’ statements within the standard at which they are judged to be working. A pupil’s writing should meet all the statements within that standard (since they represent the key elements of English writing within the national curriculum). However, teachers can use their discretion to ensure that a ‘particular weakness’ does not prevent an accurate judgement of a pupil’s overall attainment. Teachers must be able to justify their decisions with evidence during moderation."


Myth: I need to start preparing a special portfolio of evidence in case I am selected for moderation

This is false. The KS2 Teacher Assessment Framework states "Teachers need to base their judgement on a broad range of evidence, which will come from day-to-day work in the classroom. For English writing, this should include work in curriculum subjects other than the one being assessed, although a pupil’s work in that subject alone may provide sufficient evidence to support the judgement."

You need to make assessment judgements for each pupil based on day-to-day work which represents each child’s independent application of skills. Remember when making final judgements you are considering whether each skill is firmly embedded. You can only do this by considering a range of writing opportunities and considering how independently the child has applied the skill/s. The evidence itself will vary from school to school. 

There is no requirement to create a portfolio of evidence throughout the year. There is also no requirement to have ‘best work books’ or only assess writing based on tasks where no input was given. Some schools may use best work books and this forms part of their day-to-day evidence. Neither do you need to produce a ‘tick list’ or a dated record sheet showing when each statement within the TAF has been demonstrated. You will verbally discuss this during any moderation (internal or external). Moderators will also wish to discuss with schools the level of independence and the build-up to the pieces. 

All schools record writing differently. Some of the most commonly shared sources of day-to-day writing are presented to me from:

  • English books
  • Journals
  • RE books
  • Topic books
  • Early morning writing activities 

Remember as well that your robust evidence base used to inform your final judgement may well differ from child to child. Each child will have connected differently with each writing opportunity so consider each child individually. The important thing is that you explore a skill application across a range of purposes and audiences, reflecting the aims of the National Curriculum. 

Some skills may be independently demonstrated within a piece and other skills not. You must be confident that your judgements are based on writing that has been produced independently by the pupil. You know your pupils and you know the writing opportunities. When working with a moderator to review your final judgements (internal or external) you will verbally articulate the level of independent skill application to them, without the need for a portfolio created throughout the year.

Myth: The moderator will review writing on their own and then come to a judgement

Absolutely not - external moderation, and indeed effective internal moderation, is centred around professional discussion. Remember this is YOUR conversation. You made the judgements, so you are going to lead the professional discussion around each pupil in your moderation sample. This is your opportunity to celebrate which skills you feel the individual pupil has demonstrated consistently across a collection, and where appropriate specifically within a piece of writing. 

As part of the discussion read aloud full pieces from the writing collection. This will allow you to exemplify the celebration statements you are making about the child. Start by reading in full the piece that you feel best represents the child as a writer (this may not be their most recent piece). 

Moderators have statutory obligations they must cover, so do not be worried if they ask you some follow-up questions or ask to read together some more writing from a pupil. This is all part of the process.

Occasionally moderators may ask for a short amount of time to complete the statutory paperwork ahead of a final debrief, but no assessment validation decisions will be made without you being present.

Myth: If my school is externally moderated we will only talk about 5 pupils

This is not correct. The guidance states that a minimum initial sample of 10% of the cohort will be selected by the lead moderator at the start of the moderation session. In a one-form entry school, the minimum will be 5 pupils. This however is just the initial sample

Be prepared for a moderator to ask to read another writing sample from a pupil, or even explore another writing collection from another pupil in the cohort. Don’t be alarmed about this. This is simply your moderator making sure they are confidently validating your judgements, and making sure they meet all the statutory obligations set out for them by the STA. 

In addition, if you have any pupils in the cohort who you feel have the potential to reach the next standard before the final TA deadline then you will discuss these pupils with your moderator (regardless of whether they were in the initial sample or not).

Time goes very quickly during external moderation sessions but do ask your moderator if there is time to consider any other pupils outside of the sample who you would really value a discussion about. In every class, there are the cuspy pupils, the ones that are not as consistent in their skill application. It is really valuable to discuss these borderline pupils with someone who can look totally objectively at the evidence base with you. So speak up - ask your moderator IF there is time and have their writing easily available. You may wish to pre-prepare a visual assessment model that outlines the judgements made, for example using our windscreen model to identify these borderline pupils. 

Myth: Moderators will make judgements on the writing opportunities I have chosen for my class 

Absolutely not. Moderators have constraints over what they can / cannot do as part of the statutory moderation. External moderation is not a curriculum review session; the sole purpose is assessment validation. Moderators will discuss with you the range of writing opportunities pupils have had and will explore with you both fiction and non-fiction writing, guided by yourself. 

All moderators are teachers/leaders and they will enjoy the discussions with you over how writing has come about - they are likely to ask if they can even magpie an idea or two from you!

After the moderation has drawn to a close I strongly urge you to put aside a further 15 minutes to reflect on all the curriculum celebration points you feel you can identify that have allowed pupils to achieve the standards that they have (regardless of whether this is WTS / EXS / GDS). While this is most certainly a non-statutory activity it is something I highly recommend every teacher does upon completing their final TA judgements at the end of the academic year. This list might include particular texts or topics which really inspired pupils, or it might be how you created more opportunities for pupils to make their own choices, perhaps you found more time for pupils to share their writing aloud with each other which really supported editing skills. 

Why not join one of our moderation training sessions? I offer a range of CPD opportunities to help you celebrate writers and develop your skills alongside fellow professionals and an experienced moderation manager. Book here.

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