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Commission created to help schools assess without levels

Teachers will no longer be expected to tell parents whether their child is working at a similar level to others at the same age, according to schools minister Nick Gibb.

Speaking exclusively to TES, Mr Gibb said assessments will only need to show how a child is performing against that school’s curriculum – not whether that performance is similar to others around the country.

The government scrapped the national system of assessment, in which children were assessed as being at one of eight national curriculum levels in September 2014, branding it ‘vague’. Instead schools have been told to create their own ways of assessing children, which will be evaluated by Ofsted.

The decision has been controversial, and today the government has announced that it is setting up a commission to help schools find new ways of assessing their pupils’ progress. The Commission on Assessment Without Levels will be chaired by John McIntosh, former headteacher of the London Oratory School.

The commission will be responsible for identifying and disseminating best practice, but Mr Gibb said that these models will not be imposed.

“This is information that’s going to be available,” he said. “Ofsted are not going to say we expect you to use this approach.”

National tests and teacher assessments at ages 7 and 11 and GCSEs at age 16 will remain in place to show how students compare to others nationally at those points.

“We have these national benchmarks, and it’s for a school to decide how it wants to go from where they are today to reaching those benchmarks… and that journey may vary depending on the cohort of pupils, the school, their curriculum and their pedagogy.

“We’ve got to trust the profession to know how they are going to bring that child up to the level they need to be by the time they leave primary school and by the time they leave compulsory education."

The decision to scrap levels was made after an expert panel which reviewed the curriculum said they led to pupils labelling themselves as a particular level – rather than linking hard work to achievement.

The levels were also quite broad meaning that children at the same level could not always do the same things.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “Schools have been asking for support since the government first announced that levels would be removed. So while this may be useful, we could have done with it 18 months ago.

“We do agree that levels had become unhelpful but schools are already working hard to implement new systems and approving new software, and this could just confuse matters further. It remains unclear the extent to which Ofsted is able to effectively inspect an assessment system that is becoming increasingly diverse and nuanced.”

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Only one in six primary schools planning to scrap national curriculum levels  21 Mar 2014

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