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How to adapt to life after levels

In September 2014, the government removed levels from the national curriculum. Although many teachers have welcomed this change, one major question remains: how should schools now measure progress in a way that can be demonstrated to inspectors, parents and students?

In the absence of a concrete answer from the government, schools are seeking out their own alternatives to levels and are turning to subject-specific bodies, such as the Geographical Association (GA), for advice.

“The 2014 curriculum for geography has almost nothing to say about progression, assessment or standards,” says John Lyon, programme manager of the GA.

“Many teachers have voiced concerns over the removal of a familiar and usable structure without provision of an alternative. The assumption is that these matters can be dealt with by arranging content in a sequence; it mistakes sequencing for progression.”

In response to teachers’ concerns, the GA’s assessment and exams working group has put together guidance that takes a positive approach to the change.

“The move away from a national structure undermines a shared understanding of standards, but it also provides freedom for teachers to redesign assessment and to rediscover their professional judgement,” Lyon explains.

The GA suggests that teachers should take the following steps to plan for progression without levels:

Establish aims

Long-term planning and assessment depends on having a shared vision of what you are trying to achieve. Departments must identify the big objectives for their subject and consider what progress against these objectives looks like. You can read the GA’s suggested geography aims here.

Devise benchmark expectations

Teachers need a clear view of what they expect students to achieve at each stage in their study. The GA has written age-related benchmark expectations (for pupils aged 7, 9, 11 and 14) that provide a way to map out progression when planning. These can help to promote a shared understanding and a common language about achievement in geography.

Assess, record and report

Employ a “mixed economy” of assessment opportunities. This might include the use of day-to-day AfL techniques, short tests to check knowledge, developed enquiries to assess conceptual understanding and the occasional synoptic assessment to test problem-solving or decision-making skills. The National Association of Headteachers suggests a system of identifying “working towards”, “met” and “exceeded” to make judgements about attainment against expected standards in the long term.

How are you tackling assessment without levels in your subject? Let us know in the comments section below.

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