Life after levels – what next?

New Scholastic UK report highlights confusion and lack of consistency in secondary schools’ response to ‘life after levels’

At Scholastic UK, we work with many schools on their assessment initiatives. We offer a standard assessment and progress monitoring, tracking and reporting programme called STEPS (Strategic Targets for Educational Progress and Success in Key Stage 3), which was developed in partnership with Darrick Wood School in Orpington. STEPS is laid out as a simple grid and provides a progressive set of attainment targets that present challenge at all levels of ability throughout Key Stage 3.

During our work in schools we are often asked for our insight into how other schools are measuring attainment and progress in Years 7-9 following the end of well-established attainment levels in 2014 and how they are coping.

Our new research offers interesting insight and answers many of these questions. The report is based on in-depth interviews with leaders from schools and multi-academy trusts, as well as a survey of 122 secondary schools. The responses are fascinating and highlight how the teaching profession has responded to the requirement of developing its own methods for assessment and tracking pupil progress at Key Stage 3.

The report’s key findings are that:

  • Schools are generally united in their view that ‘levels’ had evolved into an assessment framework that was not fit for purpose and that change was needed.
  • There has been a lack of guidance for schools in identifying alternatives to levels and on what they report to pupils, parents and regulators.
  • There is currently no one definitive approach that schools are taking in response – some have developed their own systems, many are continuing with levels under other names, whilst others are still unsure of their plan.
  • The lack of a standard system within schools and between schools is expected to create problems around national benchmarking and for pupils and teachers moving between schools that operate different systems.
  • The issues of effective baseline assessment for entry into Year 7 and the lack of clarity around new GCSE grades are cited as major concerns for secondary schools.

In launching the report, Catherine Bell, Co-Group Managing Director of Scholastic UK, said: “The value of this report is that it draws attention to the issues that schools have faced, and in many cases are still facing, in the transition from levels to a new framework. By highlighting the response from a representative group of multi-academy trusts and schools, we can provide clear guidance on where schools need support in delivering on this agenda going forward. Our objective is to shine light on where the teaching profession is now and where we need to go next to help deliver the best possible outcome for pupils.”

The reason schools find STEPS so effective is that it has grids that are broken down into subject ‘Strands’ and then ‘Steps’ which means pupils can make fine levels of progress and teachers can create incremental, personalised targets based on assessment throughout Key Stage 3. It also provides crucial baseline assessment tests.

If schools want to chat to us or speak to Martin Smith, assistant headteacher at Darrick Wood School and creator and developer of STEPS please give us a call on 0845 603 9091.