Life after Levels Assessment

The removal of national curriculum levels aims to move the spotlight onto a pupil’s knowledge and skills. Or as Sir Michael Wilshaw puts it, ‘What matters is that schools can show what their pupils know, understand and can do.’ Rather than asking “is the pupil working at level 3a or 4c?” we will be asking the question “has the pupil learnt that skill or achieved that particular standard?” Therefore whatever you decide is best for your school you need to make sure you record attainment against these criteria and ensure that all the standards are being taught fully.

The focus is not on children moving through the standards as quickly as possible, as was often associated with levels, where schools and teachers were often judged on how many levels or points they progressed across the term/year. Instead it is all about mastering the standards and studying them in greater depth. Schools are not encouraged to move the children onto the next years standards unless in absolute exceptional circumstances, such as with a gifted pupil. The thinking behind this is that pupils are then really secure in the age appropriate standards and therefore, by the end of the year/key stage, are ready to progress. It will allow gaps in learning to be plugged and encourage teachers to set up activities that allow children to apply their skills and learning to different contexts. This is where the term ‘secondary ready’ comes from.  The performance descriptors to be used for statutory end of key stage assessment are still out to consultation but can be viewed here

One main difference I can see is that the assessment system would be day to day as opposed to just giving a level at the end of a term. Therefore assessment would be more frequent and closely linked to teaching and learning - as it should be!

There are an increasing number of ways being presented of recording a child’s attainment against the standards. Some plan to use something similar to the EYFS stages - for example SIMs is going to use - emerging, developing, secure and mastered as the four stages. The floor standard for pupils in year 6 is that at least 85% of pupils achieve the expected standard (in the above example ‘secure’). Attaching points to these would not serve the same purpose as the current system, given that children will be expected to master the standards and not necessarily progress to the standards of the next year group.

As a result, measuring progress will be much more focused on evidence in books and pupil voice. This was something discussed in detail at a recent Ofsted training seminar. There will be the need to assess more frequently and most importantly to create a benchmark so that progress can clearly be demonstrated. For example, in maths, the teacher may give the pupils an activity or test on an area at the beginning of the unit, teach the unit to the needs to the class and then assess again. This would clearly allow the teacher to demonstrate progress that the children have made. This benchmarking may happen termly or as often as fortnightly depending on the standard being taught. There are many commercial resources that will help achieve this but teachers could also develop their own assessments and activities. Whatever the approach, the need of moderation at all levels will be as important as ever.

Craig Smith

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