Assessment Without Levels
The aim of this guide is to hopefully give you some clear information about the changes in assessment, and what that means for the children here at Penns Primary School.
In September 2014, the Government introduced the New National Curriculum. With the introduction of the new curriculum schools were informed that assessment using levels would end. The Department for Education (DfE) decided that summer 2015 would be the last year children in Years 2 and 6 would be awarded a level in their end of Key Stage tests. The Government judged the old system of levels no longer fit for purpose and schools were encouraged to review their assessment of pupils. Over the years prominent educationalists have raised some reservations of the old system of assessment and wished to see a more child led assessment in our schools. The good news is that schools have now been given the freedom to develop an assessment system that allows teachers to focus on the needs of the child. We call this type of assessment formative assessment and it is the day to day assessment all teachers carry out within a lesson to identify whether a child has grasped the learning or skill. Before we even think about assessment we need to be clear on what changes the new curriculum has brought.
What are the changes to the curriculum?
The new curriculum sets higher expectations for our children. With the challenge that the vast majority of children should achieve age expected outcomes. The Learning Programme is set out year by year in Key Stage 1 and two-yearly in Key Stage 2. In English, appendices give specific content to be covered in the areas of spelling and vocabulary, grammar and punctuation. These are set out yearly across both key stages.
The End of Curriculum Levels
So why are levels disappearing?
The feeling from the DfE was that the old national curriculum and the levels system failed to adequately ensure that children had a breadth and depth of knowledge at each national curriculum level.
Assessing Without Levels
We have spent a long time researching different methods of assessing pupils, and we have had demonstrations of various commercial software tracking systems. Almost all of the systems used the same format, which was similar to the system used in the Early Years and Foundation Stage. This was to take the end of year expectations for each year group and to split this into 3 categories as follows:
- Emerging - Yet to be secure in the end of year expectations.
- Expected - Secure in the majority of the end of year expectations.
- Exceeding - Secure in almost all or all the end of year expectations and is able to use and apply their knowledge and skills confidently.
Under the old levels system children who were exceeding might have moved into the next level. The DfE now want children who are assessed to be exceeding to add more depth and breadth to their knowledge, and to have more opportunities to develop their skills of using and applying. They are calling this phase of learning Mastery and Depth. So how will this look at the end of each Key Stage?
Key Stage 1
It is anticipated that the majority of children will reach the expected assessment point of Year 2, a smaller number of children will reach Year 2 exceeding, and a small number will be Year 2 emerging, or possibly Year 1 exceeding/expected/emerging.
Key Stage 2
Similar to Year 2, there will be some children who may be Year 6 exceeding and some children who are Year 6 emerging. There may also be a small number of children who are still working at a lower level e.g. Year 4/5 exceeding/expected/emerging.
Assessing Without Levels
After investigating many different Assessment & Tracking systems, we have decided to use a Commercial Software called Classroom Monitor, which is very good and used by a number of local Sutton Primary Schools.
How we give an end of year assessment is going to be almost identical to how I described assessing without levels above but some of the language is slightly different. As the language of the new expectations talks of mastery and depth, so it makes sense to carry that language through to our school based assessments. Essentially:
- Working Towards Mastery = Emerging,
- Mastery = Expected and
- Deep mastery = Exceeding.
The biggest difference is how we will talk to you about how your child is progressing during the year. With the old National Curriculum levels, each year children were given a target for the end of the year, and during the year we would tell you what National Curriculum level your child was at.
For Example: A child could finish Year 3 with a level 3a, and in Year 4 would have a target of a 4b for the end of the year. At Parent’s Evenings throughout the year you may be told that they have moved to a 4c and then on to a 4b.
We could use the levels system this way because there was no correlation between a level and a child’s year group, and this can be seen in the way that in a Year 6 class there could be a range of levels, e.g. from level 2 to a level 6. However, the new National Curriculum sets out expectations for each year group and children will be assessed each year against the expectations for the year they are in, so a child in Year 4 will always be judged against the expectations for the end of Year 4. So how will the process work?
In each Autumn term, by October/November the teachers will have had an opportunity to assess how the children are working. At the start of each year, every child will be working towards mastery as they are newly introduced to and assessed against the End of Year statements. By using their professional knowledge and judgement teachers will know what the children can already do and what they believe the children can be expected to achieve by the end of the year. So, for example, children in Year 3 could be given a forecast of:
- Year 3 – Working Towards Mastery
- Year 3 - Mastery Or
- Year 3 - Deep mastery.
Only very exceptional children will have a forecast from a higher or lower year group.
During the year, when we have conversations with you about you child’s progress you won’t be given a level. Instead you will be told whether your child is on track to meet their end of year target. It may well be that they are above or below where they need to be.
As we have always done our conversations will focus on the specifics of your child’s strengths and any gaps in their understanding so that you are informed and best able to support your child.
We hope that you find this guide useful to help you understand why and how assessment has changed.
M Jones Nov 2015