Education blogger urges teachers to see lifting of levels as ‘wonderful opportunity’

School leaders were given an insight into life without levels at the London conference, designed to help teachers face the “enormous” task of developing their own assessment systems.

Speakers explained their own models of assessment at the event organised by The Key, a company that provides leadership and management support to schools.

The message was clear – there is no general consensus on what makes the most effective system.

Education blogger David Didau (pictured) spoke about tackling the myth of progress. He described the freedom to replace levels as a “wonderful opportunity” to assess what students could actually do.

He spoke of the importance of using threshold concepts in new assessment, but added any systems were an attempt to “map a mystery with a metaphor”.

“There’s no way we can ever really know everything about what students are learning.”

Tony Staneff is vice principal of Trinity Academy Halifax, in West Yorkshire, which has created its own system alongside partner primary schools.

It is based on the key principles of mastering small chunks of content, proof before progression and using a front-loaded curriculum, and uses regular assessments to determine if pupils have mastered content – which they have to pass before they can start on new objectives.

Katharine Bailey, director of applied research at the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University, said schools should concentrate on building a deep understanding of threshold concepts that children “can’t unlearn”.

Michael Tidd, deputy headteacher at Edgewood Primary School, in Nottinghamshire, has developed an assessment system that tracks children’s progress against key objectives, which is then shared with the children and parents.

It includes three markers for each objective: “achieved”, “not achieved” or “working towards”.

Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key, said: “Trying to develop cycles of development is fraught with complexity and failure.

“But you in your schools can bring about a more effective environment for learning to take place.”

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