Assessment without levels – what makes an effective system – expert reaction

Schools have been told to create their own way of assessing children, after the government scrapped the national system of assessment. Until September 2014, children were assessed as being one of eight levels. Assessments will now need to show a child is performing against the particular curriculum the school is teaching. 

A new Commission on Assessment without Levels will be responsible for identifying and sharing best practice. School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb, said,  “Ensuring pupil assessment provides an accurate picture of a pupil’s attainment and progress without placing a bureaucratic burden on teachers is a key part of the Government’s plan for education.

He went on to say, “Levels have been a distracting, over-generalised label, giving misleading signals about the genuine attainment of pupils.”

Commenting on the announcement, Katharine Bailey, Director of Business Development and Applied Research at the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University:

​”The use of National Curriculum levels for formative purposes was fundamentally flawed. A system that is teacher-led and tailored to the school and its pupils’ will provide teachers with the opportunity to think hard about what they want pupils to learn and develop innovative and engaging ways of assessing their understanding of those concepts. For many teachers, this is not easy. They need to be given the time to do this work and they need support, encouragement and engagement to do it. The Commission is a good step in the right direction.”

Expert reaction from Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment research at Cambridge Assessment:

“The domestic and international research evidence in favour of dropping ‘Levels’ from arrangements in England became extensive and compelling.

The removal of ‘Levels’ shifts attention to greater detail and to the fundamentals of subjects – this has the potential to raise standards significantly.”

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