Assessment Without Levels Commission: Nick Gibb leads hunt for new primary assessment solutions

Assessment Without Levels Commission: Nick Gibb leads hunt for new primary assessment solutions

Concerns over new detailed performance descriptors have led the Government to set up a new commission to review how schools assess pupils’ progress.

Responses to a consultation, published today, reveal how teachers found the Government’s draft plans to replace the previous ‘levels’ systems with descriptors lacked “clarity, consistency and need greater simplicity”.

Most respondents said a framework was still needed for statutory assessment at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2. A total of 74 per cent respondents said the names of the draft performance descriptors would be confusing for teachers and parents; 69 per cent felt descriptors were not clear and easy to understand.

In response to the consultation, school reform minister Nick Gibb announced yesterday the Assessment Without Levels Commission. He said the teacher-led commission will highlight best practice models to help schools develop their own assessment systems.

The consultation report read: “Many of the issues raised by respondents regarding the names, structure and content of performance descriptors amount to a request for greater simplicity, clarity and consistency to support teachers in applying performance descriptors and to help parents understand their meaning.”

It said some concerns were raised by stakeholders who valued the levels system and wanted performance descriptors to replace them.

But, speaking yesterday, Mr Gibb said: “Crucially, [national levels] failed to give parents clarity over how their children were performing and also resulted in a lack of trust between primary and secondary schools – clogging up the education system with undependable data on pupil attainment.”

The eight week online public consultation ran from October 23 to December 18, last year. It had 880 responses, 69 per cent of which were teachers.

The Government scrapped the national levels system in September last year, saying level assessments were “distracting” and had become an “over-generalised label”.

The report continued: “As a result of some of the conflicting responses to the consultation, we will work with relevant experts to determine the most appropriate course of action to address the concerns raised and will inform schools of the agreed approach according to the timetable set out in the consultation document – i.e. by September 2015.”

Mr Gibb added: “This commission will continue the evidence-based approach to assessment which we have put in place, and will support primary and secondary schools with the transition to assessment without levels, identifying and sharing good practice in assessment.”

The commission will be led by John McIntosh, former headmaster of the London Oratory School.