Assessing Without Levels
September 2014, the Government made a huge change in the way that children in schools are to be assessed. This is to tie in with the New National Curriculum that started to be used by all schools at the beginning of this last academic year. This is a new way of thinking for schools, and assessment will look very different to how it has done for the past 20 years. The new curriculum sets out what is to be taught within each year group or phase, but does not provide any system or structure for the ongoing assessment for pupils’ progress.
So why are levels disappearing?
The DfE want to avoid what has been termed ‘The level Race’ where children have moved through the old National Curriculum levels quickly to achieve higher attainment. The old National Curriculum was sub-divided into levels, but these were not linked to their National Curriculum year group. For example, a child in Year 4 could be a Level 3 or even a level 5. Children were achieving Level 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2, but the DfE thought that a significant number were able to achieve a Level 5 or 6 in a test—but were not secure at that level. 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 various different methods of assessing pupils, and we have had demonstrations of various commercial software tracking systems, as well as a system developed by Surrey Local Authority. 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:
- Entering— Yet to be secure in the end of year expectations.
- Developing—Secure in the majority of the end of year expectations.
- Secure—Secure in almost all or all of the end of year expectations and able to use and apply knowledge and skills confidently.
Pupils can be assessed as being on any step at any time regardless of their actual age.
What level should my child be?
Previously, if you have a had child in school, teachers will have given you a level to represent your child’s attainment. For example ‘3C’ the number gave the level and the letter denoted steps within that level. So 3C would be a child just entering level 3, and 3A a child who was secure in the level and ready to move on to level 4. However, this system does not match with the content of The New National Curriculum where Age Related Expectations (ARE) have been given for the end of each year. As children travel from Year 1 to Year 5 in our school, they will be tracked against the Age Related Expectations. At The Dawnay these are numbered bands, the bands give the level of attainment. So Year 1 is band 1, and so on until Year 5 is band 5 and Year 6 is band 6. Because all children are individual and develop at different rates and have differing needs, they will work in the band which is appropriate to them to make sure that learning makes sense. Extra help or challenge is given to make sure they are learning at the right level.