- An undue emphasis on pace at the expense of deep understanding. The rate of progress through levels had become more important than pupils’ deep understanding, leading to a situation in which moving children on was more important than ensuring they understood what they had learnt. In addition, it had become an expectation that pupils exceed expectation.
- The unsuitability of using best fit descriptors which aren’t always suitable.
- Determining levels by averaging out scores on a test, meaning that pupils were awarded average levels which didn’t necessarily determine their specific strengths or weaknesses.
- International benchmarks did not operate on a levels system, instead measuring mastery or depth of learning.
So what does the new NC offer instead?
The new NC works on the premise that progress is about no longer about value-added, exceeding expectations of the speed of progress. Instead it is about breadth and depth of learning and mastery of the curriculum.
This offers an opportunity for teachers to design a framework that best suits their schools and pupils - if the right support and training is developed.
What are the challenges?
- Understanding this new concept of progress.
- Knowing how to assess progress within Key Stages, now that the only national expectations for attainment are that children are fluent in content at the end of KS1 and the end of KS2- in between children will take differing amounts of time to fully understand concepts.
- Understanding and drawing out key learning objectives and assessment foci from the purpose and aims of study part of the new curriculum.
- Differing between coverage and assessment. Coverage within a subject needs to be monitored but it is separate from assessment, which needs measure the depth of understanding.
- What parts of the curriculum should be assessed?
So what needs to be done?
First, we need to reclaim assessment as something that is done to support learning and that lies at the heart of good teaching and learning. Alongside this primary purpose, it can provide valuable information and what is successful and where and how improvements can be made.
Second, we need to build a robust understanding of assessment theory and practice within and across the teaching profession.
Third, we need strong leadership, intra- and inter- school collaboration and training support, that encourages innovation while working towards a collective understanding. Particularly important is linking what is being taught to what is being assessed, while keeping assessment contained to assessing what is important - or higher order tasks - (being called key performance indicators). Schools will need to use the new National Curriculum and their collective judgement when deciding these, as well as understanding and exemplifying performance standards through pupil work.
Headteacher Update, July, 2015: Life after Levels: the key challenges
Headteacher Update, July, 2015: Life after Levels: the next steps