What does the Commission on Assessment without Levels say … and not say? Part 1

Andrea Quincey

17th September saw the publication of the final assessment information from the DFE. This included the following:

In the next two blog posts we will attempt to give you a brief overview of what the information contained and what impact this information will have on you.

Part 1: Types of assessment for schools

It is first and foremost important to emphasize that the report and the government’s response do not provide schools with a solution to assessment without levels; what they do is to offer guidance and support to help schools design their own assessment policy. The report and response highlight the principles which should underpin any approach to assessment and have been designed to ‘help schools on their journey’. Crucially, the Commission and the DfE acknowledge that for many schools that journey is only just beginning.

The Commission’s recommendations are largely aimed at government and focus on the need for more support for schools/teachers in the form of shared expertise, CPD, clarity around Ofsted and continued work on data management (linked to tackling issues of teacher workload).

We’ve tried to capture some highlights from the Commission’s report and the DFE response:

  • The removal of National Curriculum Levels requires a fundamental shift in thinking about assessment and a change of culture in schools; this will take time.
  • Schools – not government – should control in-school assessment, both formative and summative, as part of a whole-school assessment policy. It really is up to schools to decide how to assess pupils; government is only going to provide the statutory end of key stage tests/assessments.
  • Schools should focus on assessment for learning and leave ‘assessment for accountability’ to the statutory national tests/assessments.
  • Schools must focus on high quality assessment to inform teaching and learning in order to raise standards; the test results should then take care of themselves.
  • Schools should ensure that in-school summative assessment includes a range of tools such as standardised tests and summative teacher assessments that help to provide a ‘snapshot’ of children’s achievement and progress over a period of time. These assessments should be conducted at key ‘end’ points such as end of unit, end of term or end of year.
  • Data from any in-school summative assessments may be recorded and ‘tracked’ but this should not be onerous and not done more frequently than termly.
  • Schools should focus on in-school assessment that encourages a more informative and productive conversation with pupils and parents. Children should be given more ownership over their learning through feedback that identifies their strengths and what they need to do to improve.
  • Regular moderation of any summative assessment is essential to avoid bias.
  • In-school formative assessment, i.e. regular observations, marking, questioning during teaching and learning, helps to inform teachers’ professional judgements but does not need to be recorded or tracked.

Andrea Quincey is the Head of Primary English at Oxford University Press and has been developing primary literacy resources for schools for nearly 20 years. She led on the research and creation of the popular Project X series and has more recently been focused on helping schools with the challenges around assessment.

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