Life After Levels Part 2

I include here some notes that summarise some of the salient points made at the life without levels. First note please that this has to be viewed as a starting point- we going on journey on this one- one that will be very productive- but lets not assume we will all fully understand/ be fully reassured just yet.

2 things before we start:-

  1. This is complex- – it involves a new way of conceiving of pupil achievement and a radical overhaul of some of our ways of working. It will take us a little time to get to grips with.
  2. It is progress it is a better way of conceiving of pupil achievement and it will lead to better learning for our children

1 thing that changes right now:-

We wont be telling you whether your child is below/ in line or above expected attainment or progress right now. We will only be informing you where they lie on an effort/ attitude scale. This is an interim measure and we may not stick to this. However please note that we only started giving you a report card before a parent meeting relatively recently: this to give you a bit more of a heads up before you walked into the meeting and provide another starting point for discussion with the teacher. Note also that most primary schools simply hold the parents evening so whatever you feel about these new report cards they are still more than most parents get and, as I’ve said, they are only an interim arrangement.

1 thing to be reassured of right now:-

The school’s progress scores (as detailed on the Ofsted data report called Raiseonline) are very good. This is now the last time levels will be reported on this document and it is the best one the school has ever received. Basically the data says children progress well at our school. A change to a system without levels will not change this fact; will not change the good work our teachers do.

What you need to know:

Levels have been removed from primary education.

An Expert panel reviewed use of levels to judge children’s progress through school and their impact on learning”

They found the way they levels had developed in schools could be negative:-

  1. Children were labelling themselves and comparing themselves to others in an adverse way. Their assertions on this mirror our school’s feelings about the need for a Growth mindset model in education. They said, “We need to switch to a different conception of children’s ability. Every child needs to be capable of doing anything dependent on the effort they put in and how it’s presented to them. Levels get in the way of this.
  2. Schools were pushed (because of the high stakes system of accountability in education) to move pupils at an undue pace through the levels and this meant pupils were often left with important gaps in their knowledge and understanding.

The panel looked at high performing jurisdictions or education systems across the world and found a common theme. They found that, in these jurisdictions, primary school age children studied fewer things in greater depth. Tim Oates (Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment) says, “They secured deep learning in central concepts and ideas”he concluded, “Assessment should focus on whether children have understood these key concepts rather than achieved a particular level.”

The National Curriculum has therefore been re-organised so that there are expectations for each year group rather than level descriptors. The principle here then is to not move a child onto the next year’s key concepts but to stick with those appropriate for that year group and deepen their knowledge and understanding; this by applying their skills and getting pupils to think and reason around the concepts. It is assumed that all children in a year group will be working their way through the curriculum appropriate to them.

The question that will come to mind immediately for parents is, will my child be given appropriately challenging work? The answer to this question is yes of course within each year group, children’s needs will vary as much as they have ever done and it is the class teacher’s job to provide input, experiences and support to cater for these needs. Don’t, for one second, imagine that this is about lowering expectations or aspirations or treating everyone the same. Instead of imagining this, hold onto the key concept behind this change- that we must encourage pupils to learn more deeply before they move onto the next stage, if we are to give them the best possible education.

This expects plenty from our teachers- is all too easy to move children rapidly (or competitively) onto the next thing or next level; it’s quite another to creatively stretch the learning sideways and strengthen their understanding. To do this teachers will be getting children to rehearse and apply their understanding in different purposeful contexts and in ever more challenging and stimulating ways.

Another question that you may have for me is how will we know how our children are progressing? Firstly please note that the most important information we should be discussing is the qualitative information about them as learners; their strengths, habits, needs and next steps. The whole spirit of this new curriculum and the new assessment process is to not label children and allow them to compare themselves to others in an adverse way. That said you need as much clarity as possible so that we can work together to help them reach their potential. We will be working hard between now and the Spring reports to create a system that aims to achieve both of these things.

The Big picture

How your child’s progress will officially be calculated at the end of KS2

The end of levels also means the end of calculating progress from KS1 to KS2 in terms of the difference in levels attained. A new approach will be used to measure progress to the end of KS2 from KS1 and, eventually, from the Reception Baseline. The methodology works as follows, here based on progress between the end of Key Stages 1 and 2:

1.Take a pupils performance in the end of KS2 reading or mathematics tests or writing teacher assessment.

2.Look back at that pupil’s aggregated prior attainment at the end of KS1.

3.Take all the pupils nationally who had exactly the same KS1 prior attainment and look at their KS2 results; work out the average progress made by this group of pupils between Key Stages 1 and 2.

4.Go back to the original pupil and see if she/he made more or less progress than the average. If it’s more than average, she/he gets a positive score and if it’s less than average she/he gets a negative score.

5.Repeat the process for all the pupils in the school’s Year 6 cohort and add up all the resulting positive and negative scores.

6.If its pupils have made more than average progress, the school has an overall positive score, and if they have made less than average progress it has a negative score.