THE PHASING OUT OF NATIONAL CURRICULUM LEVELS

National Curriculum levels will cease for Years 1, 3, 4 and 5 at the end of this academic year and for Years 2 and 6 at the end of the 2014/15 academic year. In future schools will be expected to make their own decisions about how to assess pupils. This has implications for future Ofsted inspections, which currently rely heavily on National Curriculum level-related data in RAISEOnline.

HOW OFSTED PLAN TO INSPECT SCHOOLS

This excerpt from Sir Michael Wilshaw’s speech at the North of England Education Conference in January 2014, illustrates what Ofsted will be looking for when carrying out their inspections:

Good schools have always tracked their pupils’ progress and Ofsted will expect to see this continue. We will not endorse any particular approach. But we do expect every school to be able to show what their pupils know, understand and can do through continuous assessment and summative tests.

I don’t know of any good or outstanding school that doesn’t set targets for children to achieve at the end of any key stage. I don’t know of any good or outstanding school that doesn’t use assessment to establish whether children are hitting those targets. I have never seen a good or outstanding school that doesn’t have summative tests at the end of each year.

Regular testing has received a bad press in recent years, as if it were somehow separate and antithetical to the business of education. It is not. It is an essential tool that allows students and their teachers to assess progress.

And can we please bury the notion of teaching to the test? Of course, teaching to the test is terrible. It’s an inversion of a good education. But no good school teaches to the test. They expect their teachers to cover the programmes of study and schemes of work and use examinations to assess progress. Not the other way round.

This is even more important as the country moves to a more linear examination system. Quite simply, it would be unfair and unjust for young people to have to face an end-of-course exam, if they hadn’t also been exposed to regular testing throughout their school career.

So, when inspectors visit a school, they will expect to see good formative and summative assessment.

They will want to know how often pupils are assessed and what tests are being used. For those schools that struggle to create their own, we can be sure that the market place will come up with good standardised tests for each year group and each subject.

Inspectors will want to see how well the tests are linked to the curriculum and how the results are being used to inform the school about the quality of teaching and the progress of children.

It is clear, therefore, that in a system without National Curriculum levels Ofsted plans to continue to assess how well pupils are progressing during each year and from year to year and will also expect to see evidence of how schools are assessing their pupils and using assessment information to inform teaching and learning.

However in future they will need to review a much broader range of evidence so it will be up to schools to ensure that they collect appropriate evidence and that it is robust and reliable.

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