National Curriculum levels were consigned to the history books last September or so was the intention of the government when it launched its new curriculum. I’ve been in contact with science teachers all over the country and most are still gathering information about what assessment should look like and formulating a way forward.
I’ve attended CPD events and read articles and blog posts in an attempt to see what everyone else is planning and to make sure I’m on the right track. The change is so fundamental to everything we do as science teachers that we want to make sure that we are on the right track.
We’ve known that levels have had their faults for years. We know that schools place more emphasis on their worth than they should. We know that they can stigmatise children who compare their levels to friends and family. We know that progression doesn’t always happen in a linear way through the national curriculum levels (or through sub-levels if you use PIVATS and B-Squared in special schools). Students are expected to make a certain number of levels of progress over a key stage and are tested over and over again (tracking and assessment windows anyone?) to make sure they are on target.
So what comes next?
We’ve been discussing quality assessment within our regional committee for the ASE for several months now. Models used by members within the committee have a similar feel although the language differs between them. Some schools have three tiers, some four etc which replace the old levels. An example is given below
Other professionals use language like beginning, developing, enhancing crafting, crafting, perfecting, mastering and so on.
The idea is simple – you develop (although let us be honest, most schools will be looking for a system to adopt from outside) a system where for each topic/lesson teachers have identified what students will be expected to achieve and worked backwards/forwards from this point. Of course having a set of statements is only the beginning of the journey, using them for formative and summative assessment will take a little more time to get right.
Sticking with the old national curriculum levels is fine for now but long term is likely to be considered bad practice. They are likely to be a starting point in developing a new system that better reflects the new national curriculum.
As a school leader I have a new set of questions that come up every time I think of assessment.
Tracking over the key stage – will we expect set targets based on the targets (for example 80% of students reaching the expected standard). Will we track individuals towards their target like we do now? How will we track progress towards the target (hopefully sublevels are well and truly dead).
Comparability with other subjects – will we easily be able to compare science with other subjects to see how students are doing (or if we can’t do this does it matter that we can’t?)
Ofsted – what will they be expecting to see and will inspectors have been trained on the changes? I know some have been asking questions about assessment and levels since they stopped being statutory.
How will our system compare to mainstream schools – very few of our students may make expected progress and we don’t want to create a system that is as demotivating as what we have now. It also needs to be appropriate for groups of students that span a wide range of levels under NC levels.
So where are we now?
I’m still gathering my thoughts and doing my research. I know that Activate (the scheme of work I’ve bought in as a starting point) has started moving in the right direction but I’d be interested to hear from those that are further along the journey than I am. Hopefully I’ll manage to get my head around assessment at KS3 before the changes to GCSE come in and that changes too!