Information for Parents and Carers

Assessment Without Levels

In September 2014, the Government made a huge change in the way that children in schools are to be assessed. This is to tie in with the New National Curriculum that has been used by all schools since the beginning of this Academic Year. This is a new way of thinking for schools, and assessment will look very different to how it has done for the past 20 years. The aim of this guide is to hopefully give you some clear information about all the changes that are happening in Education across the country and what that means for the children here at Kingskerswell C of E Primary School. Before we even think about assessment we need to be clear on what changes the new curriculum has brought to subjects that are traditionally assessed.

Curriculum 2014

So, what are the changes to the curriculum?

It would take far too long to cover the whole curriculum, particularly in any great depth. But the main changes are highlighted below.

The new National Curriculum for Primary Schools has reduced the use of prescribed teaching methods.   In other words,  it encourages teachers to use their professional judgement and expertise to design the curriculum and allow schools to tailor their curriculum to local circumstances more flexibly. It also aims to help performance in the middle years of primary through the development of three curriculum phases, early, middle and later primary, promoting inclusion, diversity and community cohesion and encouraging active learning. Key features of the of the new curriculum are — a strengthened focus on literacy and numeracy skills with opportunities to apply these skills throughout the curriculum, increased expectations for ICT, reference to broad areas of learning, an increased emphasis on personal development and improved transition from primary to secondary.

Programmes of learning are set out in six broad areas:

  • understanding the arts
  • understanding English, communication and languages
  • historical, geographical and social understanding
  • mathematical understanding
  • understanding physical development health and wellbeing
  • Scientific and technological understanding.

Running through these are the ‘essentials for learning and life’ — literacy, numeracy and ICT and personal learning, thinking and social skills. It is expected that these essentials will be built into the curriculum plan and run through the other areas of learning, ‘embedding the essentials’. In addition to the six areas of learning there is a revised non-statutory programme of learning for religious education.

Whilst there is a major change happening to the primary national curriculum, pupils in years 2 and 6 have been taught the current English, Mathematics and Science programmes of study in the 2014 to 2015 academic year. These pupils have sat the current key stage 1 and 2 tests and new tests will be made available from 2016.

The End of Curriculum Levels

The Department for Education (DfE) has decided that the children who are currently in Years 2 and 6 will be the last pupils to be awarded a level in their end of Key Stage tests (Summer 2015). 

So why are levels disappearing?

The DfE want to avoid what has been termed ‘The level Race’ where children have moved through the old National Curriculum levels quickly to achieve higher attainment. The old National Curriculum was sub-divided into levels, but these were not linked to their national curriculum year group. For example, a child in Year 4 could be a Level 3 or even a level 5. Children were achieving Level 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2, but the DfE thought that a significant number were able to achieve a Level 5 or 6 in a test—but were not secure at that level. The feeling from the DfE was that the old national curriculum and the levels system failed to adequately ensure that children had a breadth and depth of knowledge at each national curriculum level.

Assessing Without Levels

The DfE announced last year that there would no longer be National Curriculum levels, and that schools would have to set up their own way of assessing pupils.  We have spent a long time researching various different methods of assessing pupils, and we have had demonstrations of various commercial software tracking systems, as well as a system developed by Devon’s Local Authority. Almost all of the systems used the same format, which was similar to the system used in the Early Years and Foundation Stage. This was to take the end of year expectations for each year group and to split this into 3 categories as follows:

End of year expectations – KS1 and KS2




Yet to be secure in the end of year expectations
DEVELOPING Secure in the majority of end of year expectations
SECURE Secure in almost all or all the end of year expectation and is able to use and apply their knowledge and skills confidently

Under the old levels system children who were ‘secure’ might have moved into the next level. The DfE now want children who are in the ‘secure’ bracket to add more depth and breadth to their knowledge, and to have more opportunities to develop their using and applying skills. They are calling this phase of learning Mastery and Depth. Only exceptional children will move into working towards the end of year expectations from the year above. Similarly, children who are unlikely to be emerging at the end of the year may work towards the expectations from the year below.

So how will this look at the end of each Key Stage?

Early Years Foundation Stage Unit (EYFS)

Children in the EYFS will continue to be assessed against the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP for short). This consists of Ages and Stages criteria for nursery learners moving into Early Learning Goals for Reception aged learners.  At the end of Reception these are reported as Emerging, Expected or Exceeding the Early Learning Goals in each area. Evidence is gathered across the year to create ‘Learning Journeys’ for all children in EYFS and we value all contributions from parents and carers to these documents. Assessment in EYFS is gathered through observations of learners, samples of learning, photographs and conversations which demonstrate the child’s understanding of a given concept.  In addition to this, staff identify the learning behaviours of children and plan lessons and activities to develop a wide range of learning skills in preparation for the next stage in their education Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2).

Key Stage 1

It is anticipated that the majority of children will reach the assessment point of Year 2 ‘Developing’, a smaller number of children will reach Year 2 ‘Secure’, and a small number will be Year 2 ‘Emerging’.

Key Stage 2

Lots of you may have heard of the expression ‘Secondary Ready’ as the standard children must achieve by the end of Year 6. The DfE have slightly distanced themselves from this phrase and are talking about children reaching the assessment point of Year 6 ‘Developing’. Similar to Year 2 there will be some children who may be Year 6 ‘Secure’ and some children who are Year 6 ‘Emerging’.

Assessing Without Levels

After investigating many different Assessment & Tracking systems, we have decided to continue to use an updated version of School Pupil Tracker for this academic year.  However, we as a school will be continuing to investigate alternative assessment and tracking systems in order to ensure that we are using a process which:

  • Gives reliable information to parents about how their child, and their child’s school is performing
  • Helps drive improvement for pupils and teachers
  • Makes sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation

Therefore, from September 2015, we may have changed the assessment arrangements again to meet the above requirements.  In order to ensure you are kept fully informed of any changes we will be holding a parents evening in the Autumn Term of 2015.

So how will the assessing without levels process school work?

In each Autumn term, by October the teachers will have had an opportunity to assess how the children are working. At the start of each year group, every child will be ‘Emerging’ as they are being judged against the End of Year statements. By using their professional knowledge and judgement teachers will know what the children can already do and what they think the children can achieve. They will then give a forecast as to where they think a child will be by the end of the Year.  So, for example, children in Year 3 could be given a forecast of Y3E (Emerging), Y3D (Developing) OR Y3S (Secure). Only very exceptional children will have a forecast from a higher or lower year group. As far as we are aware Year 6 Secure (High) is likely to be the highest grading for the end of Key Stage 2.

During the year, when we have conversations with you about your child’s progress you won’t be given an actual definitive position of where they are on this scale. Instead you will be told whether your child is on track to meet their end of year target. It may well be that they are above or below where they need to be, in which case their end of year target may be adjusted.

Throughout the year learners are assessed against the each area in terms of whether, at each stage, they are Emerging, Developing, or Secure.  As I already mentioned above the new curriculum focuses very much on ensuring children have a breadth of understanding within the concepts and skills they learn. The application of skills and understanding across a wide range of curriculum areas is key. Rather than moving ‘up’ the stages, the focus is on moving ‘outwards’ developing a deeper understanding. Staff will continue to differentiate all activities to ensure that all learners’ needs are met. Gathering evidence of learners progress and development will continue with a wide range of Formative Assessment; (day to day assessment through learning completed, observations, conversations and guided sessions) which will inform teacher’s planning and also Summative assessments, (more formal assessment/tests) which will play a part in the overall assessment and progress checks for learners at set times in the year.

Reporting to Parents

How your child is progressing during the year?

With the old National Curriculum levels, each year children were given a target for the end of the year, and during the year we would tell you what National Curriculum level your child was at. We could use the levels system this way because there was no correlation between a level and a child’s year group, and this can be seen in the way that in a Year 6 class there could be a range of levels, from level 2 to a level 6. However, the new National Curriculum sets out expectations for each year group and children will be assessed against those every year, so a child in Year 4 will always be judged in the first instance against the expectations for the end of Year 4. 

Please note:  The end of year report for your child, which you receive in July 2015, will reflect the new assessment system (except in Y2 and Y6).    When reading your child’s report please be mindful that you cannot compare previous level assessments with your child’s end of year assessments. 

We hope that you find this guide useful to help you understand why and how assessment has changed.  However, If you would like any further information or clarification regarding the new assessment arrangements please do not hesitate to contact your class teacher in the first instance for further information.

Karen Strachan

Deputy Headteacher 2015