More than a year has passed since the removal of national curriculum levels, and for many schools the road ahead is still far from clear. Some schools are getting to grips with new ways of assessing progress in the curriculum, while others are still considering the best route to take.
With so much uncertainty in the air, how can local authorities support schools in the changing world of assessment?
Helping schools plan
Authorities often report that schools are eager for guidance as they start to map out their assessment journey. In a Capita survey carried out this summer, 80% of local authority staff said that schools in their area were seeking more advice and help around assessment than was previously the case. This suggests that heads are keen to ensure they get their assessment process right, now that levels are no more.
The results of the survey indicated that some authorities are responding to this – 64% of respondents said their council was providing schools with a suggested assessment framework.
By encouraging schools to use the same or similar systems, authorities are likely to have an easier task when it comes to managing schools’ data. And with all its schools taking the same assessment approach, an authority will be better placed to offer ongoing support. However, the picture is a mixed one.
The freedom to choose
The abolition of levels has opened up new freedoms for schools to use the system that best meets the needs of their pupils and some are taking the opportunity to overhaul their assessment by adopting an entirely new approach.
Headteachers are actively sharing ideas with other schools to develop an assessment plan that will work for them. And councils need to be ready to support schools that go their own way too.
One school might have a five-point scale to measure attainment while another could be using different statements to describe the milestones their pupils reach. The challenge for authorities is to interpret the information they get from schools in a way that allows them to understand the progress of pupils across the region.
Keep it simple
It might be that authorities will focus on simplicity when it comes to recommending an assessment system for schools. After all, schools will be keen to buy in to a system which is easy to understand, including for parents, whilst providing the pupil information they need to drive improvement.
Authorities will also benefit from simplicity, particularly when it comes to standardising the data from schools.
The bottom line is that local authorities need to know which pupils are achieving what they are capable of and which need extra support to reach their full potential. An assessment system needs to provide this information, regardless of what shape it takes.
While the jury is still out for some senior leaders on what assessment will look like in the future, our survey suggests that many schools and authorities are working together to ensure children in their area get the best possible start in life.