Life without levels

a new way of assessing

How is assessment changing?

In September 2014 the government introduced a new National Curriculum and announced the removal of National Curriculum levels. This has left schools free to design and use their own assessment systems where there is no prescribed style.

In the past children have worked towards the National Curriculum level, i.e. level 3a, 4c, and have been set targets in order to achieve this. Now, teachers will be assessing children’s progress against their age related expectation in the form of year group objectives and judging whether they are beginning, meeting or working in greater depth.

When will the changes come into action?

Our previous year 2 and 6 were the last cohort to take the SATs tests. In this academic year 2015/2016, our current year 2 and year 6 will be the first cohort to sit the new tests in 2016.

The attainment standards from 2016 for children leaving primary school year 6 will be based on the proportion of children reaching the new expected standards in all of Reading, Writing and Mathematics. To reach the new expected standard each pupil will be required to attain a scaled score of 100 or more in the tests in each of Reading and Mathematics, as well as being assessed by their teacher as reaching the new expected standards in Writing. A school will be above the attainment floor if 85% of pupils reach the new expected standard in each area.

Why is assessment changing?

Levels have detracted from real feedback and schools have found it difficult to apply them consistently – the criteria are ambiguous and require teachers to decide how to weight a huge array of factors… It will be for schools to decide how they assess pupils’ progress.

DfE (2013)

There have been some major changes in Education over the last few years. When the government launched a new Curriculum they also looked at the level descriptor resulting in the removal of levels to describe a child’s attainment such as 2c, 3b, 4a.This expert panel, led by Tim Oates, reported these key findings:

  • Levels resulted in children labelling themselves
  • Levels created ‘undue pace’. There was a focus on moving children quickly through the levels whereas the focus should be to ensure children have a deep understanding- longer, stronger focus on key content.

See for yourself via the link below:

National Curriculum: Tim Oates on assessment

Where are we currently?

Currently Starbank are piloting an assessment without levels model that aims to ascertain each pupil’s learning journey which can be shared with parents and carers. To maintain our high standards and expectations, steps of progress for pupils have been mapped out across the academic year. We’re eager to support parents and carers through this change, therefore, parent workshops will be organised each term.

What does it mean for my child?


A new baseline assessment was introduced from September 2015 becoming compulsory from 2016. At Starbank Reception children have been assessed in agreement with the consortium schools.

Year 1

There is no change proposed to the phonics check

Year 2 (end of KS1)

Judgements will continue to be made using teacher assessment. However, these are expected to be supported by results of externally-set (but internally-marked) tests in some areas. Scaled scores will be provided, with 100 being the expected outcome for the age group.


Year 3 – 5

No further assessments will be nationally prescribed.

Year 6 (end of KS2)

Both teacher assessment and external testing will be used following a similar model to the current framework.


What does it mean for parents/guardians?

The new system is totally personalised to each child where every single skill within each subject is assessed – therefore empowering parents. Regular target setting will keep you informed on where you child is at in their learning journey and pinpoint what to support them on.

Who can I ask for further detail?

Please do speak to your child’s class teacher; take the opportunity at parent consultation meetings too. Also look out for our fortnightly Newsletter for parent workshops.

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