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Assessing Without Levels


In September 2014 all maintained schools introduced the new National Curriculum. At the same time schools were instructed to develop their own systems for assessing pupils’ progress and achievement as a national structure for assessment would no longer be in place from this point.

This is a new way of thinking for schools, and assessment will look very different to how it has done for the past 20 years. The aim of this guide is to hopefully give you some clear information and what that means for the children at our school.


The table below summarises the main changes in the core subjects covered by the National Curriculum.


What’s new?


  • Stronger emphasis on vocabulary development, grammar, punctuation and spelling (for example, the use of commas and apostrophes will be taught in KS1)
  • Handwriting – not currently assessed under the national curriculum – is expected to be fluent, legible and speedy
  • Spoken English has a greater emphasis, with children to be taught debating  and presenting skills


  • Five-year-olds will be expected to learn to count up to 100 (compared to 20 under the current curriculum) and learn number bonds to 20 (currently up to 10)
  • Simple fractions (1/4 and 1/2) will be taught from KS1, and by the end of primary school, children should be able to convert decimal fractions to simple fractions (e.g. 0.375 = 3/8)
  • By the age of nine, children will be expected to know times tables up to 12x12 (currently 10x10 by the end of primary school)
  • Calculators will not be introduced until near the end of KS2, to encourage mental arithmetic


  • Strong focus on scientific knowledge and language, rather than understanding the nature and methods of science in abstract terms
  • Evolution will be taught in primary schools for the first time
  • Non-core subjects like caring for animals will be replaced by topics like the human circulatory system

Design & technology

  • Afforded greater importance under the new curriculum, setting children on the path to becoming the designers and engineers of the future
  • More sophisticated use of design equipment such as electronics and robotics
  • In KS2, children will learn about how key events and individuals in design and technology have shaped the world



  • Currently not statutory, a modern foreign language or ancient language (Latin or Greek) will be mandatory in KS2
  • Children will be expected to master basic grammar and accurate pronunciation and to converse, present, read and write in the language


The End of Curriculum Levels

The Department for Education (DfE) decided that the children who were in Years 2 and 6 last year were the last pupils to be awarded a level in their end of Key Stage tests (Summer 2015).

So why are levels disappearing?

The DfES want to avoid what has been termed ‘The level Race’ where children have moved through the old National Curriculum levels quickly to achieve higher attainment. The old National Curriculum was sub-divided into levels, but these were not linked to their national curriculum year group. For example, a child in Year 4 could be a Level 3 or even a level 5. Children were achieving Level 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2, but the DfES thought that a significant number were able to achieve a Level 5 or 6 in a test—but were not secure at that level. The feeling from the DfES was that the old national curriculum and the levels system failed to adequately ensure that children had a breadth and depth of knowledge at each national curriculum level.


Assessing Without Levels

We are now assessing children against the new framework, one for which they may have not been taught the previous years’ objectives and content, so we are in a time of transition between old and new sets of data.  

The principles that underpin our new assessment system are:

  • Every child can achieve: teachers at Rougham have the mindset, ‘What do I need to do next to enable a child in my class to achieve?’
  • The National Curriculum objectives will be used as the expectations for all children.
  • Children will make age appropriate progress – 12 months in 12 months.
  • Teachers are experts at assessment - assessment will be effectively used to ensure the correct scaffolding is built into lessons to ensure all children achieve.


In order to be ‘secondary ready’ children need to meet the required end of Key Stage 2 expectations; this is broken down into key outcomes for each curriculum year. We use the National Curriculum objectives to assess outcomes for children at the end of each curriculum year.


Our assessment and reporting system includes:

  • Ongoing assessment by the class teacher throughout each lesson, through questioning, observation and dialogue.
  • Children knowing what they are being asked to learn and more importantly, why.
  • Success Criteria are discussed and agreed with or formulated by the children during each lesson, work is then assessed against the success criteria.
  • Three way feedback, pupil, peer, teacher with clearly identified next steps – this can be written or verbal feedback.
  • Regular pupils’ work scrutiny.


All of the above will feed into the new Target Tracker ‘Steps’ which will replace our traditional Target Tracker ‘levels’. These will take place at class, phase and subject level six times a year, towards the end of each term and reviewed half termly.


Tracking progress over time

We will use codes to track pupils' progress over time, against age-related expectations in each subject area:

  • Emerging or beginning
  • Expected or working within
  • Exceeding or Secure, reflecting that age-related objectives have been achieved and the child is working at a deeper level of understanding and application


We will be replacing Average Point Scores (APS) with Tracking Steps. Tracking Steps can be used to examine progress and attainment numerically (as an average).


 More able children

For children who have securely met the end of year objectives they will be assessed as exceeding or mastering objectives for their age group.  Rather than moving onto the next year’s curriculum, except in exceptional circumstances, these children will work on ‘mastering’ their knowledge through the application of skills in different contexts – they will be deepening their learning.

 The depth and application of a child’s learning is an important marker of their achievement and progress.


Early Years - Nursery & Reception

Children in Nursery and Reception will continue to be assessed against the Prime and Specific areas of Learning in the EYFS profile.

Assessments will be based on observation of daily activities and events. At the end of Reception for each Early Learning Goal, teachers will judge whether a child is meeting the level of development expected at the end of the Reception year:

  • Emerging, not yet reached the expected level of development
  • Expected
  • Exceeding, beyond the expected level of development for their age 


In September 2015 we used a new Baseline Assessment which was completed during the first six weeks of children in Willow Class starting school. Along with the other primary schools in the Thurston Pyramid we used the Early Excellence Commercial Test which we feel best fits with how we work at our school. This will be used as a benchmark to track progress as a child moves through the school.


Reporting to Parents 

Discussions at parent, teacher consultation meetings in the Autumn and Spring terms will be based on the assessment system in place for each age group.  We have produced a new style individual annual report for the end of the Summer term.


New SATs in 2016

These will have two aims – to provide standard information to parents and to give a picture of school performance. There will be different approaches to assessment through a child’s education and development, using the most appropriate approach for capturing children’s learning at each stage and to complement on-going teacher assessment:

• a short reception baseline that will sit within the assessments that teachers make of children during reception;

• a phonics check near the end of year 1;

• a teacher assessment at the end of key stage 1 in mathematics; reading; and, writing, informed by pupils’ scores in externally-set but internally-marked tests (writing will be partly informed by the grammar, punctuation and spelling test); and teacher assessment of speaking and listening and science;

• national tests at the end of key stage 2 in: mathematics; reading; grammar, punctuation and spelling; and a teacher assessment of mathematics, reading, writing, and science.