Are we just jumping through hoops?

I was going to start with ‘it’s that time of year again’, but nowadays, it always seems like ‘that time of year’.  Year 11 are preparing for yet another controlled assessment, and I am running out of inspirational ways to help them get ready.

I went through all the usual stuff again – “once I give you this task, I can’t help you with anything else”; “you have until next Monday to prepare”; “no, you can’t use those verbs in your 40 words” –  usually followed by “a verb is an action word”! 

And then there’s the issue that always makes me wonder if I’m doing it correctly- “you can’t take home your draft or your planning sheet”.  “But Miss, isn’t most of this in our exercise books anyway…?”

And of course, it is, because that’s the vocabulary and grammar they have been learning in lessons for the past few weeks.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have been doing my job properly.  I feel like I’ve missed something somewhere, but I am assured that I haven’t. 

So therefore I started to ask myself – Are these assessments just hoops to jump through, or are they really giving our pupils the opportunity to respond spontaneously to the target language?  For me, until we see how the examination results turn out, it’s still in the balance …



  1. I know exactly where you are coming from. These assessments seem to test memory rather than language skills. My y10 last year did not seem to do v well in either assessment wr or sp and they were fairly good groups so who knows what their final GCSE scores will look like this summer. Watch this space, I guess.

  2. I agree with you entirely! One student pointed out today that the controlled writing is not testing their French, it’s testing their ability to memorise 200 words. Both the students and I are finding the new system frustrating.

    One thing I’ve been doing is during ‘phase 1’ to set homework to write a paragraph answering a certain question which we’ve been working on in class and because it’s homework, I can mark. Unbeknown to the students these ‘homeworks’ correspond nicely to the paragraphs from the task! Most realise when you give them the task that the work has previously been done and has already been marked, so all they have too do is put it all together!

    Controlled speaking opens up a whole other can of worms ……

    Give it a couple of years and it’ll probably have changed again!!

  3. I heartily concur. The one thing keeping ME sane is the thought that I am teaching FRENCH, not “GCSE hoop-jumping”, and that the time we spend doing the CA’s is just “what’s got to be done”. The rest of the time is what it is REALLY all about…

    …that is, until we get hold of Gove and co (and @nick_clegg !!), rewrite the National Curriculum and the KS3-KS4 system, and do it the way it OUGHT to be done!

    All power to the #mfltwitterati! 😉

  4. Nobody I have spoken to about Controlled Assessment has had a good word to say about it. A great example of the law of unintended consequences – orignally conceived as a way of promoting spontaneity and encouraging students to talk about what they are interested in instead of what the exam boards think they should be interested in, it seems to have succeeded in stifling the very attributes it was designed to develop. Whole classes preparing to talk about “My school” is surely not what was meant? Come the revolution…

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