We're still in the dark over levels, says headteacher who developed learning ladders

Life without levels

Last week, I was among the many heads and teachers who eagerly ploughed through the report from the Commission on Assessment Without Levels.

I suspect we were all looking for the same thing in one way or another – clarification.

For some heads, it may have been clarity on what does or does not need to be tracked, for others it would be on what is the ‘ideal’ assessment system.

So, was clarity forthcoming? Well, in a few areas yes, but not in the way some of the profession may have expected.

The answer was unequivocal for those heads expecting to see recommendations for a replacement to take the place of levels. That is where the report was very clear. There will be no replacement to levels, or any kind of recommended system.

This has undoubtedly removed any lingering uncertainty and means those schools that have adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach need to now get down to the business of implementing an effective way of measuring pupil progress that suits them. 

Other areas still remained cloudy, however, particularly around new terminology such as ‘mastery’ which remains a confusing term.

Including some more practical examples in the report would have helped, but by leaving some ambiguity the commission appears to be giving schools the green light to establish their own boundaries based on some common sense principles. The new freedoms are welcome. I enjoy the fact that my school can decide what systems we use, rather than being given some formula from Whitehall.

But like most heads, I am also aware that there could be a disconnect between what the commission wants and what an inspector might want. Ofsted are saying this is not the case. I hope so, as this will leave us to continue to develop systems that are simpler, easy to use and most importantly meet the needs of our schools.  

Sam Hunter, headteacher at Hiltingbury Junior School, who developed the Learning Ladders assessment system. She tweets @samhunterHT

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