A fascinating year: life after levels
There was a lot of debate both online and in ‘face to face’ life during the summer term 2014 about the removal of National Curriculum levels. Schools seemed to be deciding either to buy into a new tracking system or to remain with levels for one more year to wait and see what happened. At this time I took Michael Tidd’s (@MichaelT1979) Key Objectives (https://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/freeresources/) and created a very basic Excel spreadsheet (although Michael made it look far more professional). The aim was to allow my Y1 teacher to trail assessing against objectives she was actually teaching, but still to give myself as headteacher some data which I could share with Governors, the LA and Ofsted. (Ofsted duly visited in May and seemed happy with the system, but mainly I think because of the progress clearly evident in the books).
This year has been fascinating. Both internally as we have trialled the system in Y1 (YR have used Pro-tracker and Y2 have continued with NC levels obviously). It became very clear to my Y1 teacher and myself that it was fairly straightforward for children to be assessed as emerging, it took longer and a lot more evidence to assess they had met end of year expectations and moving beyond / deeper… has resulted in many interesting conversations.
I have also been fortunate enough to discuss assessment principles, purposes and systems with a number of colleagues externally. It seems that some schools have fallen into the apparent trap of planning work for the next week to tick boxes in a tracking system, as opposed to identifying gaps in the learning journey for their pupils. I know this may sound very similar: but is the dog of curriculum and assessment wagging the tail of a tracking system or vica-versa?
What I think has become clearer this year, is that the aim of removing levels (according to Tim Oates) is to change the style of learning and assessment. To get away from a linear progression reaching ever higher and from labelling the pupils. This concept of ‘new learning’ where pupils are not rushed quickly (rapid and sustained progress in Ofsted speak) onto the next level of objectives, as this has shown to leave conceptual gaps in understanding. The aim is for fewer things in greater depth, to ensure that all pupils (except maybe a few pupils with severe specific learning difficulties) meet end of year expectations. That those who might have met them by Easter, are given additional extension and enrichment activities to develop/challenge their depth of thinking/understanding in those objectives, rather than moving onto new objectives.
We think there will be more of an ‘EYFS style’ to this approach to ‘new learning’. In discussion with my LA Leadership and Learning Partner (Caroline Wilkins), we discussed the idea of a ‘grandparent curriculum’, i.e. sitting alongside the learner and using questions and assessment to understand how pupils are thinking and identify misconceptions. As opposed to the teacher having a set answer in their head that they are waiting for the pupils to provide, so that the teacher can tick a box. It’s also about giving the pupils more choice / ownership of the contexts in which they show their understanding.
Eric Halton (Hampshire LA lead for assessment) also talk about the model of a wall. The ‘bricks’ put into place each year need to be highly secure with strong links of understanding between them. This way in future years, more rows of bricks can be added with confidence, and without concern about crumbling or forgotten foundations. He also recommended summary judgements for the separate ‘domains’ within Reading, writing and maths, which I have included in the new updated versions.
Updated “Assessment Journey” Excel spreadsheets
I have updated the Excel spreadsheets that Michael and I created to share with colleagues in the summer term 2014. Again this has followed a number of conversations during the course of the year. Many thanks to Andy Higgs (@andrewbhiggs) who kindly shared a series of spreadsheets he and his staff had created to track all the NC objectives. It opened up different conversations about whether only tracking key objectives are we in danger of teaching what we need to assess, when we must ensure we help our pupils learn the full curriculum. It also raised the question of whether we can confidently say a pupil has achieved end of year expectations if we only track the key objectives? How much detail do we need?
Therefore the new versions which we are going to trial next year (in Y1-Y3) are linked to this blog. The main changes are:
- Updated information page which gives clearer definition of when to give a 1 (Emerging / Apprentice), a 2 (Mastery / Competence) or a 3 (Deep learning / Expert)
- A suggested progression for All and Most Able pupils, and where they should be to on track for end of year expectations at different points in the year
- How our class teachers will use the “Assessment Journeys”, numerical targets to aim for, but not be enslaved to and to give an overall ‘domain’ Teacher Assessment judgement in February and July
- On each sheet (Reading, Writing and Maths) with have added pupil groups columns to allow us to quickly filter for specific groups
- The NAHT KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are identified in red font. As well as an overall total / percentage for all objectives, the sheets are also set up to calculate a percentage of the NAHT KPIs
- Hampshire LA suggested Phases for Key Objectives to be taught / learnt. Phase 1 by November, Phase 2 by February and Phase 3 by May
When we meet during next year for 1 to 1 Pupil Achievement Meetings (PAMs), we will focus mainly on the KPIs and the domain summaries, but class teachers will have more fine detail assessment details for individuals and groups, with which to target future learning journeys.
My aim is still that these “Assessment Journey” spreadsheets should be a valuable and useful tool for class teachers, a support to the professional discussions about pupils’ learning and provide sufficient detail at whole school level to evidence our judgements (alongside books and pupil comments).
They are still fairly straightforward documents, and I am sure there are other better products on the market. But crucially I think it’s not about which tracking system we use, but the way it is used to support (not lead) teaching, learning and assessment.
Cornerstone CE Primary, Hampshire