Assessing without levels- Our Approach

Assessing without levels- Common sense prevails hopefully!


How many teachers have religiously marked books on a daily basis including evaluative targets, written and shared targets with their children , carried out  half termly, termly and end of year summative assessments,  marked them, carefully assessed how the information fits the sub level descriptors,  made targets from the parts of the descriptor not met,  recorded both raw score level results and targets in a word document,  transferred this to an excel doc, written a report copying the results and targets into another format,  met with parents talked through the report and explained the unique targetsfor their child only then to be questioned not about their child but about what everyone else in the class has achieved!  The meeting, and the final stage of the assessing and reporting process, ends with you knowing nothing is likely to  change despite the 30 hours writing reports,  30 hours marking assessments,  further time finding appropriate targets and the 6 hours of parents meetings. This process has taken essentially two weeks extra work outside of the normal working day. And my question- what’s the impact? As Hattie would say what is the effect size of a teacher putting in all this effort? It would be worth a study!

I’d like to put it out there whatever the impact I’m not sure its not enough! And that in most cases that same teacher could have spent the time talking to the child (feeding back verbally about their learning and next steps) and then gone straight to the parent meeting and given the parents the same information without the mountain of paperwork leading up to it. What’s more because that teacher then had more time, 2 weeks worth, to sit at home and concentrate on planning for next step learning those students would make better progress!

It’s with this is mind that I set out to devise a system that would encompass all of the tasks that have proved so time consuming in my experience over the years. I want teachers to be abe to focus on what the children have and need to learn and how they need to get there on a daily and weekly basis, not just at the end of term.  Teaching isn’t an easy career and to do it well you need to be a hard worker but everything we do should have impact on learning in relation to the time and effort put in. So as we shook up our curriculum we’re now giving assessment a wobble too. Life without levels and a new school management system called Phidias is looking brighter and hopefully more parent and teacher friendly. What I am about to describe comes with the caviat that this was devised before the latest government publication which of course could mean our new approach doesn’t fit a prescribed government system, which was apparently never going to exist at the time we pro actively devised our system. Oh well if it works we’re keeping it – inside out remember!!!

You can read the government consultation document here

For more information on Phidias school management system visit

Here’s what we did

  • We shook up the curriculum and identified what we would and wouldn’t cover to support the learning and interest of the pupils in our school (a British school in Spain)
  • We made a commitment to recognising personal and social achievements in our values based education school
  • We decided on personal and social objectives from year 1 to year 6 which we could assess and when achieved would mean our students were well rounded and society ready- not purely secondary ready!!!! We named then Marvellous Me Skills.
  • We then took each subject area and did what many schools have done and chose the key objectives that would show if the children have progressed through our school curriculum.
  • We put them into accessible language.
  • We decided to see the children’s progress as a learning journey (We stole this from Foundation Stage) and the image of them as a car travelling along a road. We broke our assessment into three levels ( Not the 5 that I now see for some subjects in the government consultation)

Getting ready

Going steady


  • SMT compared the objectives across the whole of primary to ensure progression existed for example –  put on and take off jumper in year 1, tie shoe laces in year 2, make own bed by putting on a pillow case and a duvet cover in year 3 (the latter to be assessed during our residential trips)  etc… Note I chose to exemplify our Marvellous Me Skills as these are key in our new assessment.
  • We entered all the objectives into our new system.

This is where we currently are so the next part is the in theory bit.

Within the next few weeks tablets are arriving for each teacher. The idea is that teachers and TAs can bring up our management system and access their classes as they teach and as they cover a key objectives they can record each pupils achievement during the sessions immediately after a converstaion or at the end of the teaching session, whenever is most relevant. The important thing is it can be done with ease.

Note that whilst we were entering the objectives into the system and now waiting for the tablets we are keeping track of progress using the same objectives on old style spreadsheets. This is a little repetitive for this term but in future won’t be the case.

So as objectives are covered the teachers use formative assessment and enter the position of the pupils against the objective into term 1,2 or 3, depending on when in the year we currently are.

Once again in theory,  at anytime we can interogate the system to tell us the percentage of the class that have achieved each stage in each objective. We can quickly see which objectives need revisiting or extra support for certain children.

At the end of each term we can press a button which will convert our information into a report detailing the objectives taught and where each child is in their personal learning journey against each objective. Parents can immediately see which areas their children need help in and at the parents meeting which accompanies the reports the teachers can explain how they can help at home. The report the parent sees is a more attractive version of our data entry and also has a personal comment section as well as the objectives. However the key aspect is that the teachers only have to input data once and can spend their time using the data to help them plan to support the individuals and groups within the class.

Obviously we are still in the early stages of this but once our first reports are sent in December I will update with examples and parental feedback. As we will be revisiting many of the objectives in English and maths and the skills in the other subjects the objectives will be commented on each term and will be able to be seen in the reports across the three terms so hopefully parents will be able to see improvement from term one to term three and if not then they will have been individually spoken to to explain what we are doing in school to support their child.

Why am I feeling positive?

It’s about our children

It’s a planning/ assessment and tracking document

It will inform support staff

It allows all staff to contribute

All staff can see the expected achievements of each year group

It can be understood by the children

It’s a report generator

We received positive parent comments after the October newsletter highlighted changes

Please see my October newsletter that explains assessment and reporting to parents on pages 3 and 4. October 2014 newsletterfinal


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