Life After Levels

Helping your school build a new assessment framework

The Government’s decision to remove levels and leave individual schools to decide how to measure progress understandably is causing concern for many schools, particularly at a time of other major changes in education, including the introduction of a new National Curriculum. However, many schools are already planning for a life without levels, with some schools having adopted a new system of day-to-day assessment. Throughout this section, we explore what the new policy means, the emphasis on assessment and how you can tackle the challenges ahead with a range of tried and tested assessments and services.

Our assessment model

To build a truly holistic view of each pupil, it is necessary to look at measurements of ability and attitudes alongside a pupil’s attainment. In doing so, schools are provided with an assessment model that does not rely on National Curriculum levels and provides schools with data that can be compared to a national benchmark. Read about our assessment model.

The removal of levels explained

The Government’s policy of removing level descriptors from the National Curriculum is intended to free schools from an imposed measure of pupil progress. The Department for Education has asserted that levels are not very good at helping parents understand their child’s progress. In their place, from September 2014, “it will be for schools to decide how they assess pupils’ progress".

Another challenge for secondary schools is the statement by Schools Minister David Laws that pupils’ Key Stage 2 SATs results will be used to set ‘reasonable’ expectations of what they should achieve at GCSE, with schools given credit where pupils outperform such expectations. This places quite an onus on KS2 SATs, particularly as these results provide just a snapshot of attainment at a moment in time. As such, in order to tailor teaching and learning approaches accordingly, schools will require a more detailed picture of each pupil.

Using standardised assessments

In light of the removal of National Curriculum Levels from September 2014, schools will have the freedom to implement their own assessment framework. In this, the role of standardised assessments is crucial. Discover the benefits of using standardised assessments.

What does the removal of levels mean for my school?

With levels removed and the focus now on raising achievement for every pupil, schools will have to choose whatever measure of pupil attainment and progress they feel is most appropriate. Despite giving schools the freedom to implement their own assessment framework, they will still be required to have some form of monitoring system in place to report progress to Ofsted and to parents (and, those receiving Pupil Premium will also have to show how they are successfully closing the gap).

Whatever day-to-day assessment system schools opt for, the need for pupils to be formally tested against a benchmarked framework during the course of the year is clear. Schools will need to be able to demonstrate:

  • how well their pupils have learned
  • what progress pupils are making year-on-year
  • that all pupils are on track to meet expectations
  • how tailored support programmes are being used for individual pupils who are falling behind.

How can GL Assessment help/or support you?

With over 30 years experience in providing trusted, high-quality assessments and services for children’s education and wellbeing, GL Assessment believes that standardised tests are crucial in helping schools deliver the expected changes in light of the removal of levels.

Our independent, standardised assessments:

  • allow schools to establish a baseline and track progress easily
  • show how pupils and cohorts compare against the national picture
  • provide in-depth information about each and every pupil so that teaching can be adapted accordingly
  • help to identify any barriers to learning and understand what is motivating a pupil to achieve
  • and fulfil the reporting requirements to Ofsted and parents through a range of progress reports.

Naturally, teachers’ professional judgment plays a vital role when it comes to understanding each child. Our approach simply involves adding separate measurements of ability, attainment and attitude that are benchmarked against the national average to provide a whole pupil profile.

Events, training and support resources

In addition to all of the above, at GL Assessment we recognise the importance of ongoing support and guidance in a time of change and possible confusion. As a result, we offer a range of scoring, reporting and interpretation and analysis services, alongside a series of events, webinars and help videos.

Moving forward

With two-thirds of all schools in England currently using at least one of our tried and tested assessments, many can be confident that they have the beginning of a system in place for benchmark testing and tracking progress.

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