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Assessing English Writing at Key Stage 2

Independent writing
Teachers’ judgements must only be based on writing that has been produced independently by the pupil.
Teachers should keep in mind that the national curriculum states writing can also be produced through discussion with the teacher and peers. A piece of independent writing may therefore provide evidence of a pupil demonstrating some ‘pupil can’ statements independently, but not others. For example, a pupil may produce an independent piece of writing that meets many of the statements relating to composition and the use of grammar but does not demonstrate independent spelling. This could be because the teacher has provided the pupil with domain-specific words or corrected their spelling.
Teachers may use success criteria in lessons to help them judge whether a pupil has met the objectives for a piece of writing and to help pupils understand what they have learnt. Using success criteria does not mean that a pupil’s writing is not independent, providing they are limited to describing the task and the intended overall purpose and effect of the writing, rather than modelling or over-scaffolding the expected outcome. Furthermore, using detailed success criteria as a teaching tool for one aspect of writing could still provide independent evidence of other ‘pupil can’ statements which have not been mentioned.
Writing is likely to be independent if it:
  • emerges from a text, topic, visit or curriculum experience in which pupils have had opportunities to discuss and rehearse what is to be written about
  • enables pupils to use their own ideas and provides them with an element of choice – for example, writing from the perspective of a character they have chosen themselves
  • has been edited, if required, by the pupil without the support of the teacher, although this may be in response to self, peer or group evaluation
  • is produced by pupils who have, if required, sought out classroom resources, such as a dictionary or thesaurus, without being prompted to do so by the teacher
Writing is not independent if it has been:
  • modelled or heavily scaffolded – as part of external moderation, local authority moderators can discuss where they find modelled or scaffold writing, and they may ask for further examples of pupil work to support the standard and judgement
  • copied or paraphrased, including producing work that demonstrates an over-reliance on a model text
  • edited or re-written because of direct intervention by a teacher or other adult – for example, when the pupil has been directed to change specific words for greater impact, where incorrect or omitted punctuation has been indicated, or when incorrectly spelt words have been identified by an adult for the pupil to correct
  • produced with the support of electronic aids that automatically provide correct spelling, synonyms, punctuation or predictive text. If the electronic aid is turned off, for example spell check in a word programme, this would be considered independent
  • supported by detailed success criteria that specifically direct pupils what to include, or where to include it, in their writing – such as directing them to include specific vocabulary, grammatical features or punctuation
Schools that subscribe to writing schemes or frameworks should ensure that pupils are given enough opportunities to produce independent pieces of writing in line with the guidance above. Also, schools should ensure that they are able to provide evidence that writing is independent and fulfils ‘pupil can’ statements.
A pupil’s standard in spelling should be evident throughout their writing. However, spelling tests can provide additional evidence of pupils’ independent spelling.
When assessing pupils’ writing, phonetically plausible but incorrect spellings should be regarded as errors unless the statement makes it explicit that they can be accepted.
The frameworks refer to the word lists within the spelling appendix to the national curriculum to exemplify words that pupils should be able to spell. At KS2, the lists for years 3, 4, 5 and 6 within the national curriculum are statutory. These are a mixture of words pupils frequently use in their writing and words they often spell incorrectly. As these form part of the curriculum, and should be assessed on an ongoing basis, they should generally be evident in pupils’ writing. However, if pupils do not use any of the words from the statutory lists in their day-to-day writing, evidence from tests and exercises alone is sufficient.
Teachers should be mindful of the guidance detailed in section 5.3 when assessing spelling. They should be confident that pupils have met the standards preceding the one at which they judge them to be working. This includes ensuring pupils assessed as WTS meet the requirements at PK6.
A pupil’s standard of handwriting should be evident throughout their writing. When assessing it, teachers should consider evidence from a pupil’s independent writing to judge whether the statements have been met. Handwriting books or handwriting exercises can provide additional evidence, but these would not be sufficient on their own. Although computers and digital devices can be used, sufficient handwritten examples meeting the ‘pupil can’ statements should be available to support TA judgements.
Pupils who are physically unable to write may use a word processor. Pupils who are physically able to write may also choose to word process some of their writing or use another method of recording, where appropriate. However, when assessing a pupil’s writing, teachers should still be mindful of the ‘pupil can’ statements relating to handwriting.  When pupils are using a word processor, it is advised that the spelling and grammar check functions are disabled. The teacher can then verify that the pupil is able to meet the relevant ‘pupil can’ statements independently.