The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Owen Carter

Assessing without levels in secondary schools

‘Who’s in panic?’ The raised hands that greeted this opening question from Jason Tudor showed exactly why teachers chose to attend our conference on Secondary Assessment after Levels on the 16th October.  In Ofsted’s words, assessment is now a school-led system: without levels, schools’ assessment methods are more than ever their own responsibilities. A frightening prospect – but also, as speakers throughout the day showed, an exhilarating opportunity. Curriculum reforms and Progress 8 will radically change the decisions teachers make. In the second keynote of the day, Harriet Becher of the DfE got down to business, talking through the practicalities of the new arrangements. Clarifying that a ‘4’ in the new GCSE is roughly equivalent to the old ‘C’, while the phasing of changes means that the new English and Maths will be taught first, she reminded us of the importance of keeping the key changes in mind amidst reforms. Speaking next, Chris Hildrew of Chew Valley injected a real sense of excitement about what the lack of levels might mean. Drawing on Dweck’s excellent research on growth mindsets, Chew Valley’s new assessment model encourages student aspiration and deliberately avoids setting limits on attainment. Chris demonstrated that assessment reform can be a real chance to innovate.

Remind yourself of what fits into Progress 8 as you look to future assessment.

Streamed sessions offered a fantastic opportunity to see some of these ideas in practice. At Jason Tudor’s Archway School grades are progress-focused and linked to specific written criteria so that students and parents know exactly what they need to improve. Ben Solly took us through the ins and outs of calculating Progress 8, while Jo Smith showed us how to plan for those changes. Assessing without levels is a daunting prospect for many schools. Ofsted, however, will be looking for schools to have thought creatively and comprehensively about how they assess. This conference offered some excellent starting points to help teachers view that as an opportunity as well as a challenge.

For more information about assessment models, see the assessment update for secondary colleagues.

Similar Posts

Charlie Roden

From special measures to outstanding: the power of an arts-based curriculum

When Naveed Idrees became headteacher at Feversham Primary Academy, pupils were disengaged and staff morale was low. Naveed explains how an arts-based curriculum has transformed his school. What state was your school in when you first became appointed as headteacher? When I became headteacher in...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Homework: how beneficial is it?

How effective is homework in improving pupil attainment? According to research, less is more. Homework – love it or hate it, one thing is indisputable: it's one of the hottest topics amongst parents across the country. Browse any corners of social media where parents hang out and you will see...
Read more...
John Dabell

How to help children who say they are 'stuck'

Teachers are sometimes far too quick to respond to requests for help. How do children benefit from being 'stuck' and how can we encourage them to find a solution independently? When some children encounter a problem, difficulty, or challenge, they stop. Sometimes stopping and pausing for a moment...
Read more...