Life after levels report finally published: the full list of recommendations
Created in response to concerns that teachers were struggling to prepare for the abolition of levels, it contains six recommendations for helping schools implement new assessment systems.
The government’s response to the commission was also released today.
The six recommendations are:
1. The appointment of a standing committee on assessment, supported by a panel of experts, who would oversee the next phase of assessment development
The government agrees that there is a need for experts but fails to say whether or not a committee will be created. Instead it says it “will explore” the best way to draw on expert evidence.
2. Fund one person in each Teaching School alliance to become a specialist leader in education (SLE) specialising in assessment
The government “acknowledges” that training staff within teaching schools would be an expedient way to “build expertise” and sharing across the sector. Again, it says it will “explore” the best way to increase Teaching School expertise.
3. Create a national bank of assessment questions to be used in formative and summative pupil assessments.
The government agreed this is a good idea and so will explore the best way to establish and implement a national bank.
This section of the report also recommends creating an online forum where teachers can share assessment ideas. The government agreed and said they will consider the best ways to do this.
4. Develop a training module for senior school leaders and Ofsted inspectors on the principles and purposes of assessments.
The government “strongly endorse” the idea that inspectors and schools leaders should have a “shared understanding” of assessment. They will investigate options for this one.
5. Establish a review group on school data management to advise on ways to reduce assessment-related workload
This group has already been established. The government will encourage it to built on the work of the Commission.
6. Create an expert group on assessment for pupils working below national curriculum level
The government announced the creation of this group in July.
The report states that no template will be provided for schools by the Commission and it warns against the use of assessment systems from external providers before schools have developed their own approaches.
The report also notes that assessment and data management are often driven by expectations of what Ofsted inspectors want.
But says: “Schools should not seek to devise a system that they think inspectors will want to see; it should be one that work for pupils, with the sole aim of supporting their achievement. Inspectors will look at the effectiveness of a school’s curriculum and assessment system in terms of the impact on pupils’ achievement.”
To combat workload the commission recommends “school leaders to think carefully about why and how they collect and record assessment data”.
It says all information on pupil performance should have a clear rationale behind it and school leaders should ensure the collection “does not create unnecessary workload”.
However, it adds: “Neither we nor Ofsted prescribe the amount of data that should be recorded for in-school assessment. Schools should be free to implement a system that works for their pupils and staff.”
Michael Tidd, deputy headteacher of Edgewood Primary school in Nottinghamshire and member of the department’s teacher reference group, questioned why the report’s release was so delayed.
“The timescales have already been so lax. How long will setting up these groups and training courses take? Schools are crying out for help already,” he said.
The Commission was chaired by John McIntosh, former headteacher of London Oratory School, and a panel of assessment experts.