My priorities for this academic year - a deputy head's perspective

We caught up with Deputy Head Michael Tidd at the start of term to ask him what his priorities were for the year ahead and how he intended to tackle them. Here is what he kindly shared with us.

No teacher needs additional challenges at the start of an academic year, but this year we have been offered plenty in the form of the enormous changes to both curriculum and assessment. As we start the first year with all primary children following the new national curriculum, the new more-demanding assessments loom in the distance, and teachers will want to know how best to support their pupils.

The much-publicised rise in expectations in the new curriculum conceals a whole raft of changes which not only show a greater level of challenge, but also a shift in focus of what we need to teach to pupils. As our first cohorts of Year 2 and Year 6 children approach their final assessments, it will be important to know what areas of content should be covered which might be unfamiliar. Similarly, teachers in other year groups will want to ensure that the focus of their teaching helps to support the progression towards these points.


The most notable change in emphasis to the English curriculum is in the shift towards the teaching and assessment of grammar. The demands in this area are significantly greater than in the past, with Key Stage 1 children expected to identify nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, to know the difference between questions, statements, exclamations and commands, and to change the tense of a sentence. By Year 6, pupils will be required to know all the main word classes and to be able to identify subordinate clauses or other clauses within a sentence.

While different schools might choose to embed grammar teaching within the wider curriculum or to teach it more discreetly, all will want to ensure that children are able to respond to questions in unfamiliar contexts. The tasks that children will face in both Key Stage tests require that they complete questions based on sentences and phrases out of context.

The emphasis in grammar is carried across, too, to the assessment of Writing. The national curriculum retains a broad spread of content focussing on composition as well as technical accuracy, and I will be looking to the Rising Stars Writing Assessment Tasks to support with both sets of skills. However, the interim framework for assessment of writing – the replacement for Teacher Assessment levels – has a significant focus on the grammatical accuracy and variety of writing, ranging from using speech punctuation to use of passive verbs and semi-colons. So, grammar is one of my top priorities for this year. You might want to check out the Rising Stars Achieve and Skills Builders series for help developing grammar, punctuation and spelling skills.


Major changes in mathematics are largely focussed on the shift towards the Number-related aspects of the curriculum. For statutory assessment, the importance of the written arithmetic test is clear, and so teachers will need to ensure that, throughout both Key Stages, children are increasingly confident with written calculations using the standard methods, as well as work with fractions. As noted in my previous article on the new arithmetic paper, the Rising Stars Arithmetic Practice Tests will be really helpful to prepare children for the arithmetic test.

Particularly in Key Stage 2, the change from a mental arithmetic test is one that not all teachers may be aware of. Also, the shift in marking policy means that the standard column methods of addition, subtraction and multiplication, as well as short and long division are essential teaching across Key Stage 2.

The other significant change to the curriculum is in the tricky field of fractions. Again, the expectations in this area are substantial, and the shifts from the old curriculum are important to note for teachers in all year groups. By Year 2, pupils will be expected to solve problems such as finding 3/4 of 40 or recognising the equivalent of 1/2 and 2/4 .

During Key Stage 2, children should be taught to calculate with fractions, whether that’s addition of 3/5 and 1/5 in Year 3, or multiplying 3/5 by 1/5 in Year 6. In addition, the new reasoning test for Year 6 pupils may use fractions in problem-solving contexts. There is much to be said for ensuring children’s fluency and confidence with fractions in a way which has not traditionally been done in primary schools.


Alongside these significant changes to the curriculum, teachers will be expected to make judgements using their own school-based assessment system, while having an eye on the bigger picture for whole-school summative assessment at each Key Stage. The changes in emphasis in both key subjects are such that the old national curriculum tests that many schools have stashed in cupboards will no longer be a useful indicator. Teachers and schools will want to think too about how best to track their pupils’ progress towards the end-of-key-stage expectations. Many schools now rely on Rising Stars Progress Tests for their formative assessment, with Optional Tests in place to assess knowledge and understanding at the end of the school year.



Achieve 100 at Key Stage 2, Achieve Key Stage 1, Arithmetic Practice Tests, Assessment, Fluency with Fractions, Geography, History, Mathematics, More able, Revision and Practice, Rising Stars Assessment Optional Tests, Rising Stars Assessment Progress Tests, Rising Stars Writing Assessment Tasks, Science and Technology, Skills Builders

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