Ofsted inspector tells schools to stick with levels … just change the criteria

An Ofsted inspector regarded as “one of the most experienced in the country” has advised school leaders to keep their current assessment systems and instead just change the criteria that it measures.

Speaking at an event to help leaders to develop their own assessment systems after the removal of levels, lead Ofsted inspector David Driscoll urged teachers not to “throw out” their current assessment.

Instead he said to keep numerical values – such as levels – but just change the criteria to measure progress instead of attainment.

Delegates criticised the advice, saying that school leaders will have gone away thinking the education watchdog wanted to see “levels by another name”.

Mr Driscoll, speaking at the Life after Levels conference in London on Tuesday, said: “There are a lot of good assessment procedures in schools. Use them. Schools are really good as assessment.

“Don’t throw out your current system. You can keep the numerical bits, just change the criteria for getting to those points.”

But Michael Tidd (pictured), deputy headteacher of Edgewood Primary school in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, who later spoke at the event, said: “When an inspector… presents on the inspection of assessment, his views are often perceived as the views of the inspectorate.


“As a result, despite the fact that levels have been discredited by several experts, many leaders will have gone away with the message that Ofsted wants to see levels by another name.”

He said the comments “undoes the good work” of schools and confirmed that inspection results were likely to depend on the whims of the lead inspector, instead of the framework. “I genuinely fear that presentations like that today can actually cause more damage to the system.”

Mr Driscoll, speaking to Schools Week after his presentation, said: “All the new curriculum does is change the criteria.

“Staff know their kids and can look at work, test results and evidence and come to a view on that child’s progress.

“Schools should keep the good bits of what they do. In the end they determine that we have to measure something. What you call the starting point and end point is irrelevant. What’s important is the progress they are making in between.

“My key concern is that people think they can’t use the word ‘levels’. That’s what we are going to be judged on. I don’t think schools have to be radical, they have to be sensible.

“They have to consider the workload of teachers.”

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. Annette

    Being extremely fortunate to have Dave Driscoll as my School Imrpovement Partner, I can see that key messages have been twisted!
    He has praised the accurate assessment we do in school, urged us to continue to use a framework, through which we can understand where children are at, and identify next steps for each on an individual basis.
    He has also worked closely with us to consider how best to support parents in their understanding of their children’s ability, thinking about ‘expected’ performance of children at different ages, and using the new National Curriculum as a benchmark.
    He has a forward looking approach, and we have worked hard to ensure an assessment system that best meets school, parents and, more importantly, pupil needs… Not just to dress up a wolf in sheep’s clothing!
    I wasn’t at the conference last week, but I would be amazed if this article accurately portrays anyone’s views – it certainly doesn’t echo anything I have heard from Dave!

  2. Peter Slough

    Having worked with Dave Driscoll for many years I have never heard him suggest that schools keep levels. I find the article factually incorrect and I certainly do not know who the man in the photograph is!
    Dave is a highly regarded Ofsted inspector and is extremely aware of the issues facing schools with regard to assessment procedures and inspection.

  3. J. Peach

    This article completely misrepresents David Driscoll’s views. I have worked with him on several occasions and he has a very sensible approach to assessment which encourages schools to use any system that helps them to show clearly the progress that pupils have made.

  4. Steven Cartlidge

    I have worked with Dave Driscoll on many occasions and I know he would never suggest schools should keep levels. Plus who is the person in the photograph? He is not the Dave Driscoll I know.

  5. Pete Slough

    Re Editors note.

    Forgive me, having re read the article it does indeed state that the photograph is of the Head making the comments.
    I think Michael Tidd needs to reflect on what was actually stated at the conference, together with the Editor, prior to making such sweeping statements about Dave Driscoll’s views on levels.

  6. Martin F

    Dave Driscoll is entirely accurate in his assertion that school will continue to need a numerically based system for recording pupils’ attainment and progress.
    As we move from a concept to a content driven primary curriculum teachers will continue to need to know what children can and can’t do and they will, no doubt be well served by the publishers who will provide systems for recording pupils’ attainment against the curriculum statements.
    However, school managers, heads, governors and inspectors need to have a model for reviewing trends across the school and over time. This is data and data systems work with numerically based models. You can’t measure progress without a starting and end point that is numerically based nor can you determine proportions without some numerical modelling.
    Whether schools keep and modify their current recording systems, buy in a new one or invent their own it will, in the end come down to mathematical modelling. That will require assigning some sort of numerical value to children’s attainment. The output can be called levels, scores or even goves but it will have to be numerically based.
    Having working with Dave for many years I know that whatever he suggests would be in the best interests of schools and their children. He fully understands that data matters and even more he understands how to use it to help schools and their children.

  7. Dave Evans

    I have worked with Dave Driscoll for many years. He is a knowledgeable, highly regarded and very experienced inspector who is forward thinking and deeply reflective. I have never heard him express these views on levels.