In 2013, the government announced that it would be abolishing national curriculum levels in England, and that it would be up to schools to design their own replacements.
Like many people in the profession, I was both pleased and panicked by the decision. On the one hand, along with many others, I had grown frustrated with the way the constant need to “level” work was restricting curriculum reform and innovation. On the other hand, what were we supposed to invent instead of levels? And there was the perennial question about anything to do with education in England: what would Ofsted make of it all?
For me, the biggest opportunity was to reclaim the possibility of effective assessment for learning. In the late 1990s, the introduction of assessment for learning held out enormous promise as a means of improving education for all pupils. Unfortunately, that promise has not been realised. As educationalist Dylan Wiliam has said, there are very few schools where the principles of assessment for learning are being implemented effectively. Instead of more frequent feedback and formative assessment, accountability pressures have led to many schools becoming bogged down in a cycle of summative assessments.
In September 2013, I began working at Ark Schools on our “Life after Levels” programme, trying to answer the questions that had been raised by the abolition of levels. How can we measure student progress? How frequently should we use summative assessments and grades? What assessment information is most useful for all of the different people involved in education: pupils, teachers, parents and Ofsted?
Making Good Progress? The Future of Assessment for Learning attempts to answer these questions, and to put forward ways in which assessment can help to improve learning, not just to measure it.
Daisy Christodoulou’s book Making Good Progress? The Future of Assessment for Learning is published by Oxford University Press and was released on 2 February 2017. It is available in paperback and online through your preferred retailer. Visit bit.ly/Christodoulou for more details.