Assessing Writing for Impact: The Three C’s 

Discover the essential steps that curriculum leaders can follow to ensure the assessment of writing is clear, consistent and consequential.
Children writing in the classroom
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We all know assessment is a crucial part of teaching and learning, regardless of stage or age. However, not all assessment is equal. Assessment is only worth the time and effort if it has impact, and in order to have impact, we have to be sure of the validity of the assessments we are making. If our assessments are inaccurate, poorly focused, or quickly discarded, we cannot improve outcomes for our children. This applies to every curriculum area, but it is particularly important in the assessment of writing, which we know can be so much more subjective. The whole writing process depends on assessment, whether self-assessment, peer assessment, assessment as learning or the summative assessment that teachers engage with throughout the year. Assessment is how we know as writers what to ‘choose and refuse’, what needs proofreading, what could be edited, and how to make our writing more effective for the audience and purpose.

As teachers, we need to assess exactly where our writers are up to, their strengths and next steps, in order to support them to become more effective. We have to ensure our assessment process follows the three c’s: Is it clear, consistent and consequential


To start, we need to ensure our writing assessment process is clear to everyone who uses it. Writing assessment comes down to a set of statements with which teachers judge pupils’ writing, and it is crucial that these are clear and succinct, and appropriate for your context. 

The National Curriculum English descriptors are the best place to start. Many schools simply use the descriptors as they are written, however this can lead to inconsistent assessment, as they are grouped by stage, rather than year group. Best practice for writing assessment is to have a set of statements for each year group, that clearly define what is required to achieve age-related expectations. These could simply be the National Curriculum descriptors, or they could be built upon to meet the needs of your specific context. 

Nevertheless, we need to not only consider the expected standard, but also working towards that standard and greater depth within the standard. In some schools, it is common practice to only assess against statements for expected, with any child not achieving this working at ‘working towards’, and any child seeming to exceed this as working at ‘greater depth’. However, this can lead to inaccurate assessment, as there is often a wide range of attainment for pupils working below the level of expected, and for children working at greater depth, there is a risk the judgement becomes incredibly subjective. A clear set of statements, which incorporate WTS, EXP and GDS can support those judgements, and aid transition.

Download an example of our One Education Writing Assessment Grids, which assess WTS, EXP and GDS to support you.

Schools also need to consider how the writing of children working below their year group is assessed. In my view, simply saying these children are ‘working below’ is insufficient and does not help identify their next steps. Instead, identifying the specific year group they are working at is pivotal, and using the assessment standards for that year group means that their writing can be assessed far more accurately, leading to better outcomes over time. 

Once you have a clear set of statements in place, it is critical that time is spent ensuring every member of staff knows what they look like in practice. Take this statement from Year 4 for example: 

“Write effectively and coherently for different purposes and audiences, selecting the appropriate organisational features.” 

In order to accurately assess children’s writing, staff will need to understand: 

  • What effective writing would look like in Year 4. 
  • What coherent writing looks like. 
  • What audiences and purposes would be suitable for Year 4 to write for. 
  • How audience and purpose affect the choices we make as writers. 
  • What organisational features would fit with each of those audiences and purposes. 

Deciding what each statement looks like in your school, and sharing this, is a key step. Once that has been identified, building staff confidence and subject knowledge is key through discussion, coaching and targeted CPD. 


  • What statements are you using to assess writing in your school? Do they follow the National Curriculum?  
  • Do you have working towards and greater depth statements, as well as statements for age-related expectations? 
  • How are children working below their year group assessed? 
  • Are staff confident with what each statement means and how to identify it in children’s writing? 


Having a clear set of statements is just the start of a strong assessment process, however. Staff also need to apply the process consistently. For that, it is important to decide how writing assessments should be applied in your school. Some schools identify KPIs from the curriculum that must be evidenced to reach a judgement, whilst others expect everything to be evidenced, and some simply expect a best fit model. There is no one size fits all approach, but what is important is that, whatever you choose to do, it is done consistently. In many schools, there is a great deal of variance between teachers when assessing writing – some let spelling and handwriting errors go if the rest of the writing is at the standard; others expect everything evidenced in every piece and so on. So, communicating your expectations is crucial. 

Although statutory writing teacher assessment judgements are only made in the EYFS and at Year 6, I recommend that schools replicate the robust requirements for these assessments across each year group. This means an expectation that the statements staff use to assess writing have to be evidenced across a number (5-6) of independent pieces, with judgements moderated to ensure accuracy and consistency of application. Regular moderation of writing judgements can be a great opportunity for CPD, with teachers engaging in professional discussions using their pupils’ writing as evidence for their assessments. However, in some schools, moderation sessions are less helpful, as staff do not feel confident to have a professional discussion about the writing they see, preferring to just praise rather than constructively challenge. To support robust moderation, many schools are beginning to engage with external advisors when moderating writing, to encourage that professional dialogue and ensure assessment judgements are actually accurate. One Education’s Literacy team are all trained moderators and can support staff in your school, cluster or MAT to moderate the accuracy of their judgements and identify next steps. For more information, contact our Literacy Team Leader, Laura Buczko at 


  • How consistently are writing assessments applied in each class/year group?  
  • How consistently are writing assessment statements evidenced? 
  • Do you have KPIs that have to be achieved? Do you have a best fit model? Do you allow for ‘particular weakness’? 
  • How accurate are writing assessments in your school? How do you know? 
  • How often are writing assessments moderated? Are they moderated in school, with other schools or with external partners like One Education? 


The most important part of any assessment process is actually not the assessment itself, but what happens after it. All too often, assessments are completed and headline data gathered, then the assessments themselves are left languishing in a cupboard, forgotten about and ineffective. What really makes a difference to assessment is our engagement with what the assessment tells us about our schools, classes and pupils.  

For teachers and support staff, identifying trends for pupils, groups and the class as a whole is key if assessment is to be worthwhile. This could be noticing trends from year group objectives, or delving more deeply into foundational concepts that may need revisiting. Using this up-to-date information to plan interventions and lessons ensures children make progress in the areas they most need to. All too often, we push on to new content, but our assessments can show where previous learning has not yet been embedded. By pausing and taking stock, we can ensure children’s writing knowledge really builds over time and is sustainable, avoiding children reaching the end of Key Stage Two with gaps in their learning. 

For subject leaders, gathering an overview of trends across the school can transform their leadership of writing. Simply by asking teachers to use their assessments to pinpoint three key areas of need in their classes, and correlating this across year groups, can make a real difference. Let’s suppose teachers provide the following priority gaps from their assessment: 

  • Nursery – being more independent when getting dressed, using a greater range of tools confidently and using print knowledge in their early writing. 
  • Reception – using a comfortable grip, formation of lower-case letters and reading what they have written. 
  • Year 1 – accurate letter formation, finger spacing and use of capital letters and full stops. 
  • Year 2 – accurate letter formation, avoiding run-on sentences and accurate sentence demarcation. 
  • Year 3 – a significant number of children still require support for accurate letter formation, correct rather than phonically plausible spelling and rereading their writing to check it makes sense. 
  • Year 4 – legibility of joined handwriting, accurate sentence demarcation and avoiding repetition. 
  • Year 5 – legibility of joined handwriting, punctuating direct speech and proofreading for basic errors. 
  • Year 6 – handwriting fluency, proofreading for basic errors and cohesion within/between paragraphs. 

The subject lead could identify three main areas of need to focus on as a whole school, which could be tackled one at a time in depth: 

1. Motor skills development and handwriting – this is seen throughout the school as a key priority for many children and this points to a need to review the school’s approach to teaching handwriting, including pre-writing development. 

2. Sentence knowledge – both the understanding of what makes a sentence and accurate demarcation of sentences, including proofreading for this. Again, this is seen throughout the school and impacts the other area of need linked to coherence. 

3. Coherence – there is a need for reviewing how oral rehearsal, reading writing to check it makes sense and proofreading for sense are used by children. This leads naturally on from the need for better sentence understanding. 

Having this overarching view of writing can mean the leader can identify areas for CPD, put in plans for coaching and team teaching for particular staff, and contribute to action planning. Working on one key area at a time can really help subject leads to make a meaningful difference to teaching and learning, and having a shared focus as a staff can support its prominence rather than it getting lost in the wider improvement agenda. 


  • What happens to assessment data at a child, class, year group, key stage, subject and whole school level? Are trends identified and used to plan going forward? 
  • How are next steps communicated to children/classes? 
  • How do you know writing assessment has impact in your school? 
  • How often do you review your writing assessment process? 

Consider the assessment of writing in your school. Does it follow the three c’s? Is it clear, consistent and consequential? For support in designing an impactful writing assessment process, please contact our Literacy Team Leader, Laura Buczko at

With all of this in mind, we have created two new courses for the 2023-2024 academic year focusing on assessing writing in Key Stage Two, both of which will take place on the 17th April 2024. The morning session, Assessing Writing in Year 3 and Year 4, will focus on how to accurately assess writing in LKS2, whilst the afternoon session, Assessing Writing in Year 5, will move on to UKS2 and assessing writing to contribute to best outcomes in Year 6.

In addition to these new courses, we will also be running our popular ‘Y6 Network: Writing Moderation’ course on the 18th April. All sessions will unpick assessing at working towards, expected and greater depth, and there will be the opportunity for delegates to bring their own pupils’ writing to moderate. The sessions will also delve into best practice in the teaching of writing, with delegates leaving with a raft of ideas and resources to use to improve writing outcomes.  

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