Our school has tackled the issue of life without National Curriculum Levels by first exploring the reasoning behind this development.
Tim Oates, who led the Governments review of the national curriculum, explains the reasons in the following video:
In summary the reasons for removing the levels include:
- the new National Curriculum has been devised to motivate schools to think about how children learn
- International schools don’t use levels and their students excel academically when compared with UK students at the age of 13
- International students learn with more depth and develop better higher order thinking skills
- Levels were awarded in different ways which leads to inconsistency: testing, best fit, just in.
From this exploration we have chosen to challenge our teachers to review their teaching to ensure it enables pupils to develop a deeper understanding of key concepts/knowledge/skills and to assess this. This deeper understanding will then be built upon each year through a conceptual progression through each subject with a focus on key ideas at a particular age. To assess understanding, teachers will offer a range of questions and assessment ideas. They will also allow time for knowledge to be embedded which will result in a good amount of work being produced.
To assist teachers with this approach we have reminded ourselves of Bloom’s Taxonomy. If you wish to know more about this, YouTube and the wider internet offers a wealth of information which can be accessed easily by searching for “Bloom's revised taxonomy”. We have decided to display Bloom’s Taxonomy in every classroom, in an age appropriate way. We will be engaging our children in a dialogue about whether they are learning in the lower levels of ‘Know’ and ‘Understand’ or if they are showing mastery in the upper levels of ‘Apply’, ‘Analyse’, ‘Evaluate’, or ‘Create’.
The way in which different abilities of children are managed in the classroom will remain the same. More able children will be challenged to deepen their understanding of key concepts through the Blooms approach. Lower achieving children will have time to repeat key concepts in order to achieve the knowledge expected for their age group. They will then be expected to move on to applying their knowledge and understanding.
We don’t believe that this approach to teaching or working without levels will increase our work load, as we are simply changing one assessment approach for another. We believe that this new approach is more effective and brings greater learning opportunities to all groups. We are anticipating that it will allow us to continue with the high standards of attainment and progress that we have historically achieved.
Implementing this new strategy is an essential part of our school improvement plan. In order for us to be able to track the children’s attainment and progress effectively, we have bought into a market-leading pupil tracking software solution called Target Tracker (more information can be found here: http://www.targettracker.org/primary)
We believe that it is critical that pupils have a secure knowledge of their attainment and progress. They should be able to see how well they are doing. We are using leaflets produced by Target Tracker in the back of the children’s books to record attainment. These have attainment statements which cover all the key concepts that are taught during the year. When work is produced or observations are made, these statements will be ticked to show that evidence has been seen. We will then highlight statements once there is sufficient evidence to show that they can apply their understanding in a range of contexts and therefore demonstrate mastery of a key concept at a deeper level. Children and parents can see achievements and their next steps easily at a glance.
This record of information will be transferred to the computerised version of Target Tracker and will allow us to see a detailed analysis of attainment for each child and each cohort across the school. We then can then use the information it provides to ensure gaps are targeted and interventions are put in place to provide support and challenge as appropriate.
Finally, this computerised information will allow the teachers to assign a judgement based on a child’s attainment. This judgement will enable us to track the child’s progress through the year. We will be able to report to our families three times each year on their child’s progress as we did previously.
National standardised testing will continue in Year 2 and Year 6. We expect our approach outlined above will ensure that our children are well prepared and that pupils will have the opportunities to achieve their full potential.
We have a very strong desire to maintain our high expectations which have seen us achieve good or better outcomes across the school.