Schoolzone blog: Assessment without levels - DfE latest

Assessment without levels - DfE latest


25 Sept 2015

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When the NAHT Commission on Assessment reported in March last year, nothing much seemed to happen as a result. Schools seemed to have carried on, as bemused as ever about what to do about assessment, levels having been withdrawn. It didn't seem to offer schools much real help, so was largely overlooked.

But now the DfE has produced the report by its own commission on Assessment Without Levels. Will schools sit up and take notice this time? Here's what it has to say...

Guidance for assessment policies - essentially states the obvious, but is a good (sort of) checklist for what your policy should contain. Policies are there to structure good practice and the guidance here could certainly help schools to do so. Don't expect too much though - it's not really specific about what constitutes good assessment.

Data collection and reporting - the commission notes, is often over burdensome: schools and teachers need to make sure that they make good use of the data if it's to be worth collecting. Reporting needs to use it effectively and provide helpful guidance to teachers and learners.

Evaluating external assessment systems - the commission's recommendation that a bought in system should "only be adopted if it presents the best way to support delivery of the school’s assessment policy" may be stating the obvious, but they make it because schools often struggle to develop a complete policy for assessment without basing it on an existing system. Teachers generally aren't experts in assessment (the report also recommends more training) and schools rarely have policies based on assessment which has been tried and tested in their own schools. As many staff will have their own views, needs and restrictions, policies are often a compromise - indeed many schools adopt external systems because they trust the provider to understand the pros and cons and to have gone through the pain of development. And why not, provided it works?

Accountability and inspection - reiterates Ofsted's perspective - which is the major external influence on the use of assessment - that they aren't looking for any particular system, but for evidence that schools are using assessment effectively. That is, that they can talk to Ofsted inspectors about how it's used to inform teaching and learning. Schools aren't expected to be able to show piles of exercise books covered in teacher comments.

Next steps - interestingly, "the Commission also recommends the creation of a dedicated online forum where teachers can share their ideas on assessment" - perhaps someone should tell them about our Talking Heads service, which is exactly that, albeit with a special focus on the interests of our clients, who can put their own questions to the panel. Talking Heads will follow the progress of the current assessment reforms in schools over the period of at least the next 12 months.


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