Assessment without Levels
Information for Parents.
From September 2014, the Government has 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 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 aim of this guide is to hopefully give you some clear information about all the changes that are happening in Education across the country and what that means for the children in our school. Before we even think about assessment we need to be clear on what changes the new curriculum has brought to subjects that are traditionally assessed.
So, what are the changes to the curriculum? It would take far too long to cover the whole curriculum, particularly in any great depth. But the main changes to the key core subjects are highlighted below.
English - the new programme of study for English is knowledge-based; this means its focus is on knowing facts rather than developing skills and understanding. It is also characterised by an increased emphasis on the technical aspects of language and less emphasis on the creative aspects. English is set out year by year in Key Stage 1 and two-yearly in Key Stage 2. 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.
Mathematics - the main areas in the new programme of study for mathematics are called domains. These are number, measurement, geometry, statistics, ratio and proportion and algebra. Two of these, number and geometry, are further divided into sub-domains. The way that the curriculum is organised varies across the primary age range – every year group has a unique combination of domains and sub-domains. There is no longer a separate strand of objectives related to using and applying mathematics. Instead, there are problem-solving objectives within the other areas of study. Most of the changes to the mathematics curriculum involve content being brought down to earlier years.
The End of Curriculum Levels
The Department for Education (DfE) has decided that the children leaving KS1 and KS2 in 2015 were the last pupils to be awarded a level in their end of Key Stage tests (Summer 2015).
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. Under the old levels system children who were exceeding might have moved into the next level. The DfE now want children who are the highest achievers to add more depth and breadth to their knowledge, and to have more opportunities to develop their using and applying skills. They are calling this phase of learning Mastery and Depth. Only exceptional children will move into working towards the end of year expectations from the year above. Similarly, children who are unlikely to be emerging at the end of the year may work towards the expectations from the year below.
Assessing Without Levels- the Stirchley Approach.
The DfE announced in 2014 that there would no longer be National Curriculum levels and that schools would have to set up their own way of assessing pupils. The Leadership Team at Stirchley Primary School used the autumn term 2014 to research various different methods of assessment and we have a new system for tracking and assessing progress.
So how will the process in school work? Reading, Writing and Mathematics will be assessed by teacher judgement and evidence of learning that the children are showing. This is an ongoing process. At the beginning of a new academic year, as children are being judged against the End of Year statements of the new curriculum, they will be only be beginning to develop their knowledge . By using professional knowledge and judgements, teachers will know what the children can already do and what they think the children can achieve. They will then give a forecast as to where they think a child will be by the end of the Year. Only exceptional children will have a forecast from a higher year group.
Teacher tracking of individual progress.
Your child’s teacher has an ‘Assessment Grid’ for Reading, Writing and Mathematics for each individual child. This will inform Assessment, Planning and Teaching for the teacher.
Whole school tracking process.
Teachers have tracking grids which will be used to track progress across the year. Their grid consists of a sheet for Reading, another for Writing and another for Mathematics. Children’s grids evidence either beginning, developing, secure or exceeding. From these tracking grids, teachers and leaders can identify strengths and gaps in children’s learning, for individuals, groups, classes, year groups, key stages and of course, whole school.
Talking to Parents about Attainment and Progress.
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. At Parents' 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, from level 2 to a level 6. However, the new National Curriculum sets out expectations for each year group and children will be assessed against those every year, so a child in Year 4 will always be judged in the first instance against the expectations for the end of Year 4.
During the year, when we have conversations with you about your child’s progress we talk to you about your child's progress in Reading, Writing and Mathematics and explain where the strengths and gaps are in your child’s learning and how this compares to the expectation for the year group your child is in.
We hope that you find this guide useful and it helps you to understand why and how assessment has changed. Of course, if you have any questions, please ask the class teacher or one of the school leaders.