Only a few days ago the Commission for assessment without levels published its final report. I’ve written recently about assessment without levels and I know schools are struggling to come to terms with the next steps.
I would suggest that teachers at all levels read the report, because replacing levels is going to require a system that works from teachers at the chalkface, through middle leaders and up to school leaders. There is much in the report to take on board.
At the heart of the report is the notion that whatever replaces NC levels is a new system and not just a replacement for levels in all but name. It is a little disingenuous to suggest that despite being intended only for use in statutory national assessment that too frequently they were used for in-school assessment. I daresay that every teacher who reads this post could tell you a story of Ofsted coming in and expecting to see this, and despite the report assuring us that Ofsted is only one part of the national accountability framework, we know they are the one that wields the most power.
The report goes on to say that too often levels became focussed on thresholds and getting students through them. With government policies like the catchup premium it isn’t fair to pin this blame on schools – and this legacy will live on through the inspection of impact of this money.
There are lots of points in the report that teachers will agree with:
- The use of formative assessment and the clarification that formative assessment as a teacher intervention does not necessarily have to be recorded.
- That your assessment policy should be clear that data should only be collected where necessary and ensuring effective communication of outcomes to stakeholders.
- The commission observed that most teachers found data entry and management burdensome and time spent that could otherwise have been used in the classroom.
- Schools should not devise a system that they think inspectors will want to see but instead should have one that works to support the achievement of pupils.
- Assessment should be inclusive of all abilities (it’s a pity that Ofqual didn’t hear this advice when they came up with the new 1-9 GCSE grading system)
- Levelled pieces of work are not good practice and the award of these levels subjective and open to interpretation.
- Levels should not have dominated lesson planning and their use in discussion with pupils/parents/carers could lead to a mind-set of fixed ability.
- The report includes a page [p17]on mastery (which is proving to be a definition many are having to get to grips with for their assessment systems) and is worth a read.
- The report is clear about the distinction between assessment for formative purposes and in-school summative assessment and the need to make sure that the primary purpose of assessment is not distorted by using it for multiple purposes.
- “Measuring pupils’ progress over a short period is unlikely to be helpful or reliable and it should, therefore, not be necessary to conduct and record in-school summative assessment for monitoring progress more than once a term. Ofsted does not require progress to be recorded with any particular frequency”
I would be interested to hear about examples from schools who are ahead of the game and have a system that meets (or perhaps doesn’t meet) the aims of the commission. Please feel free to leave comments below (you don’t have to sign in or register to post)