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Assessment without levels

27/02/2015 Kelly
The government has announced that a teacher-led commission is to be established to enable primary schools to move away from the levels system of assessment.

Speaking at an event hosted by think tank Reform, school reform minister Nick Gibb said assessment using levels was misleading to parents and failed to ensure children acquired a good grasp of the basics.

Although level descriptors were only intended to sum up a pupil’s attainment and progress at the end of two key stages (age seven and 11 at primary school), some institutions had begun to use them as a form of ongoing assessment - something that the coalition wants to change.

'Distracting and over-generalised'

In his speech, the school reform minister said the previous system had led to too narrow a focus on getting pupils over boundaries - at level four, at age 11, and at grade C or above at GCSE.

"Levels have been a distracting, over-generalised label, giving misleading signals about the genuine attainment of pupils," Mr Gibb said.

"Crucially, they failed to give parents clarity over how their children were performing and also resulted in a lack of trust between primary and secondary schools - clogging up the education system with undependable data on pupil attainment.

"The commission announced today [February 25th] will help schools develop their own, more accurate assessment systems that truly show how a child is performing in the classroom."

He criticised the system for undermining the case for a "conversation" between parents and schools, replacing it with a "blanket judgement" about a child's ability.

As a result, parents were unable to provide adequate support for their child's learning - for instance, by giving them extra maths practice or encouraging them to undertake wider reading.

The minister also said levels had served to undermine trust between primary and secondary schools, and "clogged up the education system with undependable data on pupil attainment".

New methods of assessment

Mr Gibb stated that the new primary school curriculum would require better methods of assessment that provide a greater degree of clarity - levels were "vague and imprecise".

Schools have been devising their own methods of assessment. At Westminster Academy in London, teachers have broken down the curriculum into 15 topics that are independently assessed via an in-class quiz, homework and an end-of-term exam.

An average score is derived from marks for each topic, and these are then used to provide support when it is required.

The commission will continue the evidence-based approach already established by the government, sharing good assessment practice and helping schools to make the transition away from levels and towards a new system.

John McIntosh, a member of the National Curriculum Review Advisory Committee and former headmaster of the London Oratory School, is to chair the commission.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, expressed concerns that Ofsted may not be able to effectively inspect "a system that is becoming increasingly diverse and nuanced".

However, Mr Gibb stated that the government's proposals have been developed in response to the teaching profession's concerns that assessment has been too centralised.

He reassured assured teachers, heads and governors that Ofsted's inspection framework had been adjusted to reflect the absence of levels.

"Training for inspectors has been revised, and they will inspect schools' approaches to continuous assessment of pupils' attainment and progress in the key elements of the national curriculum," Mr Gibb said.

The school reform minister claimed schools that have adopted new methods of assessment do not wish to go back to the old system. They have adopted a model similar to those in countries such as Finland and Singapore, where children are considered capable of anything.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801777756-ADNFCR
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