Partner in focus: Balance

How Balance helps teachers to plan the next steps of learning in a post-levels world

When levels were scrapped by the DfE in 2013, it was hoped this would lead to the development of formative assessment practices that actually improve how teachers teach. Too often, assessing with levels had degenerated into a box-ticking exercise, and formative assessment needs had been muddled with a requirement to track progress against summative assessment targets.

However, in reality, many schools were understandably unsure what to use next. Assessment tracking tools tried to adapt, but in-school practices often stayed broadly the same. Crucially, formative and summative assessment in many schools were still handled by the same process, often to the detriment of both aims.

Thankfully, things are changing, and Balance (an Assembly partner for over a year now) are leading the way in promoting forward-thinking formative assessment practices. Angel Solutions (the company behind Watchsted and Perspective) have developed Balance so that teachers can assess students’ progress against curriculum objectives, in order to plan their next steps of learning. With Assembly’s help, Balance can be introduced into a school and fully setup with no manual effort required by the school whatsoever.

Balance is incredibly flexible - teachers can personalise the rate at which their pupils learn, and tweak expected progress accordingly. It doesn’t group students by ability or best fit, but rather focuses on the learning.

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The Balance dashboard

Balance also helps greatly with teachers’ workloads. By using Balance as a supportive tool for a variety of Assessment for Learning techniques, schools using Balance have reduced their expectations on written feedback. Teachers' workload is re-balanced whilst feedback is provided at the most pivotal point of learning. Here’s how Helen Kelly (Headteacher at Norley CofE Primary) describes how Balance has enhanced her school:

The work-life balance of our staff has been transformed. In the past teachers spent hours marking and assessing pupils work but now marking time has been halved and recording of progress more accurate than ever.This has allowed teachers to put more time into their planning. The knock on effect is that we are delivering a curriculum for the pupils and not just covering what we think is needed for the end of term test.

Assembly’s role is to make the onboarding and ongoing syncing of MIS data a seamless experience for schools. By integrating with Assembly, Balance has a direct connection to all the main school MIS. This drastically reduces the configuration steps; instead of producing and uploading CSVs, schools can ensure Balance contains up-to-date data with just a few clicks. For schools with high mobility, using Assembly ensures that Balance can be quickly updated to reflect changes in cohorts and in pupil status. This is particularly important when reporting on areas such as progress and gap analysis.

Susan Cowell from Angel Solutions has this to say about her experience of working with Assembly:

The team are excellent. They are always on hand to help and have lead on implementing a really effective process of communication between Angel Solutions and Assembly. They have gone out of their way to help us to implement a smooth onboarding process for Balance within schools. The Assembly set-up from a school's point of view is just 3 simple steps and if there are any issues with networks in schools, Assembly are experts in supporting the school through any blocks.

Angel Solutions and Assembly are both committed to improving assessment practices and the use of data in schools. Contact us to find out more about how Balance and Assembly can help you.

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The Angel Solutions team