Report on assessment after the end of levels

13/02/2014

Today the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) published a report from its commission on assessment.  Last year NAHT set up an independent commission on testing and assessment in schools, following a recommendation by the expert panel for the review of the National Curriculum, to abandon the use of levels and level descriptors in the assessment of school pupils. 
 
The Chair of the Commission, Lord Sutherland, said “This report is the first stage in this process. In view of the need to offer an approach to tackling the issues which teachers will face in September of this year, this can only be the first stage of the fuller review, which we hope will now engage the profession and relevant government bodies - the DfE, Ofsted and Ofqual.

The commission aimed to establish some national principles for assessment in schools to preserve consistency in the absence of a government approved system of levels.  Its remit was to:
  • Establish a key set of principles for good assessment;
  • Find examples of current best practice that met these principles;
  • Secure confidence in these principles in those who hold schools to account.

The report includes 21 recommendations, including: 
  • Schools should adopt a consistent approach to assessment across the country. The commission also produced a 'design checklist' to underpin this;
  • Schools should retain the use of levels while designing a new system;
  • Pupils should be judged against objective criteria rather than ranked against each other;
  • All assessments need external moderation and that this moderation needs real teeth;
  • Assessment should be driven from the curriculum. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “We must take the Secretary of State at his word and take ownership of assessment. Just because the government ceases to regulate something does not mean the profession must accept fragmentation. We can keep what was good about our previous system of assessment and address its flaws”. 

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “The NAHT’s report gives practical, helpful ideas to schools preparing for the removal of levels.  It also encourages them to make the most of the freedom they now have to develop innovative approaches to assessment that meet the needs of pupils and give far more useful information to parents.”

The National Governors’ Association welcomes this report from the NAHT Commission.  Emma Knights. NGA’s Chief Executive said “Governing bodies need robust assessment data to effectively monitor school performance, and we agree that schools need a coherent system of assessment to enable accurate comparison and benchmarking. The government’s decision to remove levels without replacing them has added more turbulence to what is already a time of change, but also opportunity - in curriculum and assessment, and schools will need time to adapt. We are therefore pleased that the NAHT intends to develop and promote a set of model assessment criteria based on the new National Curriculum, which schools will be able to adopt. We strongly support the recommendation for schools to collaborate when developing assessment strategies.”

The Report of the NAHT Commission on Assessment can be found here.
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