Demise of National Curriculum levels – NOT a cause for concern!


Michael Gove has announced that there will be no level statements of attainment for the new National Curriculum. The reasons given on the DfE website:

We believe this system is complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents. It also encourages teachers to focus on a pupil’s current level, rather than consider more broadly what the pupil can actually do. Prescribing a single detailed approach to assessment does not fit with the curriculum freedoms we are giving schools. 

See http://www.education.gov.uk/a00225864/assessing-without-levels

Where will this leave schools in planning lessons that enable learning and ensure progression? And where will it leave Ofsted when they look at lessons? Judging lessons on pupils’ awareness of their level and what they need to do to move to a higher level will no longer be relevant. This was always tricky territory at best, particularly the practice of moving between sub levels, and in many cases led to ritualistic lessons providing so called progression data that had very little to do with genuine learning. Will each school have its own unique way of ensuring progression? How will Ofsted establish any sort of orthodoxy or consistency?

Maybe the following questions can be considered when planning and looking at lessons:

  • Is the content of the lesson appropriate for the subject?
  • Does the content build on previous learning?
  • Do the pupils comprehend what they are being asked to learn?
  • Do the pupils understand why this learning is important?
  • Do the pupils know what they have to do to achieve this learning?
  • Are the pupils actively involved in the learning?
  • Is there appropriate stretch and challenge to ensure that all pupils are making progress albeit from different starting points and at different rates?
  • Are there opportunities for pupils to show that they can be self-directed?
  • Are there opportunities for pupils to make decisions about how to tackle the required learning?

If teachers can plan lessons so that the above can be answered successfully then perhaps the demise of levels is not such a bad thing.

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3 thoughts on “Demise of National Curriculum levels – NOT a cause for concern!

  1. It looks as though you and Mr Gove are in agreement Stewart(!).
    I think many in education share unease about the consequences of the way the levelling system has been applied – in particular the bizarre drive to try and show lesson by lesson pupil progress via sub levels (I think mostly to satisfy OfSTED?).
    I suspect those who created the original approach to NC levels never predicted what a monster it would prove to be.
    I don’t agree with the DfE that the level system is, per se, “complicated and difficult to understand”; but the way it has come to be applied certainly is – and, I believe, fails the basic tests of an assessment system as it seems to provide neither valid nor reliable evidence.
    However, ditching the levelling system is the the start, not the end, of a process of reform as David implies. We certainly need to be able to check on progress both formatively and summatively (we could be really courageous and start looking at diagnostic assessment as well…). And it would be be helpful to have a process that D&T teachers could agree on that would allow meaningful information about D&T achievements to be shared – in a way understandable not only within the profession but also to parents, administrators etc.
    I guess the ball is in our (that is, the D&T community’s) court; we really ought to be starting a thorough review of how the various purposes for assessment in D&T can best be supported, with a view to providing advice to schools that carries broad professional approval.
    David’s list of considerations (in the original post) seems to me to provide a good starting point for this conversation – and of course there are others in the community who have been doing interesting work on assessment that we can build on.

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  2. Fantastic – NC levels never worked in Technology -so good riddance. It will save so much time and allow teachers to plan more interesting lessons rather than ticking boxes. In practice nobody looked at them anyway. Its main effect was to prevent innovation and experimentation.

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