Key Dates for Writing Moderation


By Laura Lodge
on 19 May, 2017

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What Happens During Primary School Moderation?

In the last week, schools should have received confirmation as to whether an external moderation visit will take place for either KS1 or KS2 assessments.

Although moderation can be seen as stressful, the process is supportive and worthwhile, enabling staff to gain confidence and assurance that their teacher assessment is accurate.

Key dates for moderation

  • Friday 19 May – LAs will notify the schools that have been selected for moderation this year
  • Week beginning Monday 22 May – An email will be sent to the schools selected for moderation, setting out the process in more detail
  • Monday 5 - Thursday 29 June 2017 - LAs undertake external moderation of KS2 TA data. Schools will be notified which pupils (at least 15% of the cohort) have been selected for moderation on the day before the visit IF the school has sent pupil and judgement details in advance. If no details have been received, the moderator will select pupils once at the school on the day of moderation.
  • Thursday 29 June 2017 - Final deadline for TA data to be submitted via the ‘Teacher assessment’ section of NCA tools.

Why has my school been chosen for moderation?

Every year, 25% of schools in an LA have to be moderated. There are a number of reasons why your school may have been chosen for moderation:

  • Moderation usually happens every four years
  • There is a new headteacher
  • There are new teachers in year two or year six
  • The school is in a category of concern
  • The STA has identified the school for moderation.

If your school is not externally moderated, robust internal moderation must take place.

What happens during primary school moderation?

During the moderation visit there will be a professional dialogue between the year six teachers and the LA external moderator. This allows the teachers to talk through their judgements using the necessary evidence to support their teacher assessment. Class teachers will need to be available on the day of an external moderation so that the moderator can engage with them for part, or all of the process. The amount of time that teachers are involved in the process is at the discretion of the LA.

To demonstrate that a pupil has met one of the standards within the interim TA frameworks, the LA external moderator must scrutinise the evidence presented and validate each judgement within the sample. Evidence will consist of examples of pupils’ work and teachers’ knowledge of their pupils. If there is insufficient evidence to support teachers’ judgements, the LA external moderator will request to see other examples and potentially expand the sample.

The evidence, from across the curriculum and in a number of pieces, must show that the pupil demonstrates attainment of all of the ‘pupil can’ statements within the standard they have been awarded. The teacher must be confident that the pupil meets the ‘pupil can’ statements in the preceding standards, but there is no requirement to produce specific evidence for them. It is likely that the pupil’s work for the standard they have been awarded will also evidence the ‘pupil can’ statements of the preceding standard(s).

There is no requirement to provide ‘tick sheets’ for an LA external moderation visit. Moderators will use the exemplification tables and exemplification collection to validate their judgements. Once completed, the moderator will meet with the year six teachers and headteacher (or nominated representative) to share feedback. On the day of moderation there may be pupils who have not met a small number of the ‘I can’ statements. The LA can agree to accept additional evidence for them before the deadline of 29 June. The LA is then required to validate submitted teacher assessment data after 29 June and review any unexpected patterns of attainment in schools.

The NAHT has produced two useful headteacher ‘scripts’ to support the moderation process. These provide some useful suggestions as to how to respond to a moderator’s questions in case any issues arise during the process.

Clarification on the interim teacher assessment frameworks

Independent Writing

  • Writing can emerge from a quality text, topic, visit, or curriculum experience, in which pupils have had a range of opportunities to explore and discuss what is to be written about
  • Teachers can enable pupils to apply their learning independently, possibly with an element of choice, for example writing from the perspective of a chosen character
  • Writing can be independently edited and/or redrafted by the pupil. This may be in response to self, peer, or group evaluation
  • Writing can be produced by pupils who have independently drawn on classroom resources such as dictionaries, thesauruses, word banks, classroom displays, books or websites for support or ideas
  • Writing is informed by clear learning objectives and limited success criteria which are not over detailed and do not over-aid pupils
  • The moderation document also explains that the children’s work for moderation cannot have been modelled or heavily scaffolded, nor can it be copied or paraphrased. The STA advise that writing should not be supported by a success criteria that is over-detailed and over-aids pupils, nor can they be edited as a result of direct intervention by a teacher or other adult. Writing produced with the support of electronic aids that automatically provide correct spelling, synonyms, punctuation, or predictive text is also not independent. However, the guidance does suggest some writing can be word processed if the spelling and grammar check functions are disabled.


  • Where pupils are physically able to write and meet all of the statements except for being able to produce legible handwriting, they may be awarded the expected standard but cannot be awarded the greater depth standard
  • To be awarded working at greater depth within the expected standard, a pupil must meet all the statements relating to handwriting in the preceding standards
  • However pupils who have a physical disability that prevents them from being able to write are exempt from having to meet the statements for working towards, working at expected standard or working at greater depth.


  • If a pupil cannot meet the spelling requirements on the ITAF, then he/she cannot meet the expected standard. No exceptions made for pupils with dyslexia
  • The word lists in the National Curriculum English programme of study (Appendix 17 for year one and two common exception words, years three and four, and years five and six) are statutory. They include words that pupils use frequently in their writing, but often misspell. Pupils are not required to evidence all of these words across their range of writing. However, where listed words are used, some, or most, must be spelt correctly in line with the interim TA framework ‘pupil can’ statements.

Punctuation at KS2

  • For working at the expected standard, semi-colons and colons do not need to be used to mark the boundary between independent clauses, however children can use them should they wish. Children do, however, need to show use of a colon to introduce a list and semi-colons to divide items within a list. For working at greater depth within the expected standard, children must use semi-colons and colons for both
  • Dashes can be used to mark the boundary between independent clauses or indicate parenthesis. The guidance also states that “A pair of dashes or single dash can be used to show a parenthetical afterthought”
  • Commas, dashes and brackets can all be used to indicate parenthesis. Nevertheless, a child does not have to show evidence of all three types of parenthesis across their writing
  • Children do not need to use bullet points either for working at the expected standard or working at greater depth within the expected standard. However, if a child chooses to use bullet points, they must be punctuated consistently
  • It is not necessary for children to use ellipsis marks either for working at the expected standard or working at greater depth within the expected standard.

Shifts in formality for children working at greater depth at KS2

  • Shifts in formality must be managed and not simply random
  • They should be linked to audience and purpose
  • They must be shown on more than one occasion within single pieces of writing
  • Also, they must be shown in more than one piece of writing.

Read our previous blog for more clarification on expectations for key stage two writing.

What can I do to prepare for moderation?

Before an external moderation visit, schools need to ensure judgements against the interim framework are available for external moderators and ensure that work has been internally moderated prior to an LA external moderation visit. Staff and pupils will already be working hard to produce quality, independent writing that shows just how talented every child is. No additional writing needs to be completed for moderation, so long as there are a range of independent examples. Likewise, it is not necessary to provide tick-lists of children’s writing against the ITAF. However, it is useful for teachers to ensure that independent work is clearly noted in books, with any support also made clear. This will aid the moderator to make an accurate judgement based on independent evidence.

More widely, internal moderation of judgements is crucial. All schools should conduct moderation across all year groups throughout the year to ensure robust assessment processes. One Education can support you to facilitate effective moderation across the whole school. Additionally, our new course, Achieving the Best Outcomes in English: Years 3 and 4, places focus on the importance of the accurate and effective assessment of Literacy to support progress. Contact us online or call Laura Lodge on 0844 967 1111 for more information.

Moving forward

The tide seems to be changing for assessment, with leading figures, committees and organisations, including the DfE recognising that the current system for writing is unclear at best. One of the many proposals to improve the assessment of writing is the use of ‘comparative judgement’. This system sees teachers engaging in professional dialogue to compare two portfolios of work to see which is of a higher standard. Once this is completed, the writing is ranked on a scale. No More Marking recently completed a pilot study using comparative judgement to rank 8512 portfolios of writing. 1649 teachers were involved, with schools judging their own and other schools’ work. The schools found the process engaging and benefited from exposure to a wide range of writing, with a high degree of consistency being found in judgements. However, some issues have arisen with the programme, with some pupils receiving different judgements using comparative judgement from the ITAF. The report pointed out that this was because the current system rewards technical aspects of the curriculum, whilst the comparative judgement process naturally takes style and engagement into consideration when judging ‘which is the better writing?’

One interesting finding of the study was that, “Highly performing schools are relatively harsh in their judgement of poorly performing pupils within their schools. Poorly performing schools, however, are relatively conservative in rewarding high achievers within their schools.” This is obviously an area which deserves further investigation and scrutiny to ensure we are giving all pupils a fair chance.

Last week, the project came under fire on Twitter for sharing a piece labelled as ‘Greater Depth’ for year six. Teachers disagreed, showing the clear discrepancy between the pilot’s view of ‘Greater Depth’ and that required on the Interim Assessment Framework. Dr Chris Wheadon, the founder of No More Marking, defended the judgement, stating that it reached the 84th percentile in the trial, which matched the Greater Depth threshold in 2016.

More work evidently needs to be completed before comparative judgement is used more widely as an assessment tool. One Education are looking to set up a free comparative judgement pilot group from September 2017 which will be led by experienced LA moderators. If you would like to join our pilot, please contact us online or call Laura Lodge on 0844 967 1111 for more information.

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