“The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, nor to facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students. The key features of effective learning environments are that they create student engagement and allow teachers, learners, and their peers to ensure that the learning is proceeding in the intended direction. The only way we can do this is through assessment. That is why assessment is, indeed, the bridge between teaching and learning.” 

― Dylan Wiliam, Embedded Formative Assessment


Revision – Assessment – Refinement cycle

Assessment forms the backbone to the Ark GFS school year, with all students experiencing 3 full assessment cycles, one at the end of each term.


Each term, students are given the tools and support to complete subject specific revision, in preparation for their termly assessments. This can include, but not limited to:

  • Personalised learning checklists
  • Exam specification details
  • Medium term plans
  • Revision guides

Students spend time in lessons, with the subject specialist, developing their skills in effective revision for that subject. Subject teachers train students in the most effective strategies, based on the most recent research in their subjects. This varies across departments, but the general strategies include:

  1. Quizzing each other
  2. Creating and using flashcards
  3. Graphic organisers (sometimes referred to as knowledge organisers)
  4. Cornell note-taking
  5. Exam wrappers
  6. Past exam questions




Each term, the exam timetable is sent home to parents. This is sent along with some guidance on how parents can support from home. The exam timetable sees all students gain the experience of taking assessments in full exam conditions in the hall. This is one of the things that make Ark Greenwich Free School unique, as this is not a common experience in all schools. This is key to ensuring that students can get used to the pressure of the exam hall, well before their GCSEs, so that when the time comes, they are well versed in the expectations.


AGFS Assessment and Reporting Standards

“Assessment is today’s means of modifying tomorrow’s instruction.”

Carol Ann Tomlinson

High quality assessments are linked directly to the curriculum being taught. Good assessments provide students with the opportunity to use the knowledge/ content/ skills that they have been taught, in a way that is authentic to the subject discipline. Bambrick-Santoyo puts it clearly when he says with good assessment it is not ‘teaching to the test, but is testing the teaching’ (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2012).

Equally important to the completion of the assessment, is the review and refinement of this, following feedback from the subject expert. This allows for redrafting, improvement and further learning, to take place. The process of review ‘…teaches constructive criticism, close-reading and rewriting…’ which in turns improves the quality of performance in future assessments (Polaanyi, 1958)

AGFS considers that all assessment can be formative until the public examinations in year 11. This is because there is an emphasis on the feedback following each one. Assessments can exist in the form of exit tickets, questioning in lesson, using mini whiteboards, mini topic quizzes, to name a few. The information collected should be used to inform the next steps for the teacher and/or students. For more detail on how this feedback is given, please refer to the AGFS Feedback Standards.


What makes assessments effective?

A study conducted in 2005, suggested the following ‘conditions under which assessment supports learning’ (Gibbs & Simpson, 2005):

  1. Sufficient assessed tasks are provided for students to capture sufficient study time – At AGFS we use a variety of low and high stakes assessment, and ensure that students understand how these are used differently.
  2. The tasks are engaged with by students, orienting them to allocate appropriate amounts of time and effort to the most important aspects of the course – AGFS provides a clear revision, exam, review cycle to all stakeholders.
  3. Tackling the assessed task engages students in productive learning activity of an appropriate kind – Formal assessments are quality assured to ensure the completion of these is appropriate to the learners need, and contains unseen problems to test understanding rather than recall
  4. Sufficient feedback is provided, both often enough and in enough detail – The review period after every exam period allows for meaningful feedback to be provided and acted on
  5. The feedback focuses on students’ performance, on their learning and on actions under the students’ control, rather than on the students themselves and on their characteristics – reference to the assessment outcomes is coupled with the narrative that students develop a growth mindset and focus on next steps of learning. In KS3 students will receive coded key constructs on their academic report card, which identify the key areas in which further learning is still required (maximum of 4). In KS4, as the students are studying towards exam specification criteria, question/skill level analysis is completed by the teacher, and a personalised learning checklist is provided to each student, in every subject they study. This provides a RAG rating against each topic/skill tested and can be used as a targeted revision checklist, to prepare for the following internal/external examination.
  6. The feedback is timely in that it is received by students while it still matters to them and in time for them to pay attention to further learning or receive further assistance – this is met in the review period following the exam period
  7. Feedback is appropriate to the purpose of the assignment and to its criteria for success – teachers use the outcomes of the assessment to ‘re-teach/review’ the content tested, to ensure that students’ misconceptions/weaknesses are addressed
  8. Feedback is appropriate, in relation to students’ understanding of what they are supposed to be doing – students are regularly shown model high grade answers, so that they are clear on the desired outcomes, and how to achieve these.
  9. Feedback is received and attended to – The assessments form part of the teachers ‘deep marking’ load, and ensure that the feedback given to students timely, and allow for them to review their own work, and the work of their peers, effectively.


AGFS Assessment cycle:

  1. Teaching of the content required for the term, is planned and delivered, in line with the 5 year map and subsequent medium term plan.
  2. The revision period allows for teachers to train students to understand what and how to revise effectively in their subject, and they use this time to share the assessment criteria with students
  3. The exam period is supported with a whole-school exam timetable, shared with students through the tutor programme, and assessments are completed in the style of the final GCSE examinations (at an age-appropriate level)
  4. The review period allows the students to review their assessment outcomes and, supported by the teacher, complete a review/re-drafting of their assessment/work.
  5. Teachers complete a question/skill level analysis and a personalised learning checklist for the subject is sent home with the reports, which provide information on detailed performance to stakeholders, and is also used to review the curriculum for subsequent teaching.



All assessments are quality assured by SLT, to ensure they are robust, age-appropriate and fit for purpose. This is recorded, alongside other departmental records, in the subject benchmark portfolio.



Bambrick-Santoyo, P (2012) Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools

Gibbs, G; Simpson, C (2005) Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education