Saturday, 30 August 2014

Assessment without levels

A major issue schools are currently grappling with is how to assess, monitor and track pupil performance and progress now that levels have been removed.

A central question schools will need to address is ‘to what extent are pupils meeting the expectations of the National Curriculum in different year groups and by the end of the Key Stage?’

Currently Year 2 and Year 6 are being assessed and working with the ‘old’ national curriculum and as such, teachers can still use levels to assess pupils and monitor progress for these year groups.  The year 2014/15 is considered to be a transition year where schools may be using more than one system or may in some cases be using levels and looking to move to a new system of assessment.

DfE Assessment without levels

“Teachers will continue to track progress and provide regular information to parents.  How they do so will be for them to decide.  We will not prescribe a single system for ongoing assessment and reporting.” DfE

“Schools will be free to design their approaches to assessment, to support pupil attainment and progression.”

In the Ofsted framework inspectors are expected to consider the question ‘how is assessment being used?’ 

        Ofsted want to be assured that judgements about pupil attainment are accurate.  That assessment draws on a range of evidence of what pupils know, understand and can do in the different aspects of subjects in the curriculum, for example through regular testing. They want to see that marking, assessment and testing are carried out in line with the school’s policy and that schools are using assessment data to help teachers improve teaching and the curriculum (both on a day-to-day basis and reflective use of data to drive forward school improvement).

Inspectors will not expect to see a particular assessment system in place and will recognise that schools are still working towards full implementation of their preferred approach.

However, they will:

        Spend more time looking at the range of pupils’ work in order to consider what progress they are making in different areas of the curriculum.

        Evaluate how well pupils are doing against relevant age-related expectations as set out by the school and the national curriculum (where this applies).

In arriving at judgements about progress, inspectors will usually consider how well:

        pupils’ work shows that, where possible, they have the knowledge, understanding and skills expected for their age as set out by the curriculum and assessment system

        all pupils are set aspirational progress targets and that they are on track to meet or exceed these, and where possible, expected standards by the end of each key stage

        assessment, including test results, targets, performance descriptors or expected standards are used to ensure that all pupils make the progress their teachers expect and that more able pupils do work that deepens their knowledge and understanding

        progress in literacy and mathematics are assessed by drawing on evidence from other subjects in the curriculum, where this is sensible

        pupils’ strengths and misconceptions are identified and acted on by teachers during lessons and more widely to:

       plan future lessons and teaching

       remedy where pupils do not demonstrate knowledge or understanding of a key element of the curriculum

       deepen the knowledge and understanding of the most able.

Reporting to Parents

“In evaluating the effectiveness of reporting on pupils’ progress and achievements, inspectors will assess the way the school reports on the progress and attainment of pupils to parents and carers. Inspectors will consider whether reports help parents to understand how well their children are doing in relation to any standards expected and how they can improve.”

DfE guidance on effective assessment systems

For any new system you are considering - compare it to the statements below and ask does it deliver on these aspects

Give reliable information to parents about how their child, and their child’s school, is performing

a. Allow meaningful tracking of pupils towards end of key stage expectations in the new curriculum, including regular feedback to parents.

b. Provide information which is transferable and easily understood and covers both qualitative and quantitative assessment.

c. Differentiate attainment between pupils of different abilities, giving early recognition of pupils who are falling behind and those who are excelling.

d. Are reliable and free from bias.

Help drive improvement for pupils and teachers

a. Are closely linked to improving the quality of teaching.

b. Ensure feedback to pupils contributes to improved learning and is focused on specific and tangible objectives.

c. Produce recordable measures which can demonstrate comparison against expected standards and reflect progress over time.

Make sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation

a. Are created in consultation with those delivering best practice locally.

b.  Are created in consideration of, and are benchmarked against, international best practice.


Innovation Fund Winners

Eight schools were awarded £10,000 by the DfE to develop assessment systems.  Each school has to share free resources as a condition of being awarded the funds.  The TES website has a blog and resources produced by the schools.

Hillyfield Primary

Westminster Academy Secondary

Trinity Academy Primary & Secondary

Swiss Cottage Special School

Hiltingbury Primary

Sirus Academy

South Farnham Teaching School

Frank Wise School - special

What systems have they produced?

Below are some screen shots which may help you to get an idea of what the innovation fund winning schools have produced. 

Hillyfield Primary

Hillyfield primary have produced a passport system where pupils collect stamps for mastering particular skills.


Durrington High School


Swiss Cottage Special School

Trinity Academy : Three step assessment system


West Exe Technology College : Learning Ladders based on Blooms taxonomy

Hiltingbury Ladders

There is also an electronic version see

Sirus Academy Design and Technology

What is happening with commercial systems?

Schools and commercial companies have to decide:

  • What statements will be used to evaluate performance against?

  • What words or numbers they will use to describe differing attainment between pupils?  (This allows they to calculate progress and create statistics.

Quite a few commercial assessment systems are using four judgements such as:

         ‘beginning, developing, meeting, and exceeding’ 

        or three judgements such as ‘entering, working within, and exceeding’

        or ‘not yet taught, taught but not mastered, mastered’.

        There is no nationally agreed system.

Ten schools were given funding earlier in the year to create assessment systems and strategies which could be shared.  One of the secondary ‘assessment innovation fund’ award winning school is dividing all assessments into four : Excellence, secure, developing and foundation (see illustration).

Some commercial systems are referring to ‘stages’ that correspond to the statements in the National Curriculum for different year groups.  E.g. a pupil in Year 4 can be said to be ‘meeting’ expectations in ‘stage 4’ or a pupil could be currently ‘beginning’ in ‘stage 3’ (even though they are in Year 4.  This would mean that they are currently operating more than 1 year below their age related expectations).  Having ‘stages’ and putting pupils into sub divisions allows the commercial systems to then calculate progress in a way that will draw graphs, highlight pupils and give numerical values.  

Some commercial systems are trying to create ‘frameworks of progression’, as are some subject associations.  The question here is one of quality assurance as to how these statements are being arrived at. There are going to be different statements being used by different schools to judge the performance of pupils in different year groups.  What ‘expected progress’ might look like in one school could be different in another school.

Some commercial systems are advocating ‘standardised tests’ to aid teachers in assessing current attainment (E.g. GL Assessments, CEM).  For example, CEM provides reception base line tests and follow on tests.  Both companies providing a range of analysis tools to go with the tests.

It’s not an easy process to decide how to move forward and the best advice is to take time to consider all the options.  Documentation on new systems is still a little sparse on many of the commercial sites as they prepare for new systems.  Contacting the companies for demonstration dates would be useful.

Links for some of the commercial providers

Links to resources from the Innovation Fund

Links for TES resources provided by innovation fund winners

Swiss Cottage progression planners 0 to 100 continuum

Durrington High School Solo taxonomy system

Trinity Academy 3 step test system

Hillyfield Primary skills passport

West Exe learning ladders based on Blooms taxonomy

Sirus Academy design and technology

South Farnham Teaching School – standardised testing

Frank Wise Special School