We recently held the first in a series of voluntary curriculum conferences for mid-leaders to share their ideas about what might influence the design of our new post-levels curriculum. Ideas that were shared during our first meeting:
- Designing a new English curriculum and post-levels assessment system from scratch (which you can read all about here)
- An Ethic of Excellence (which you can read all about here)
- Using cognitive science to inform curriculum design (which you can read all about here)
- Assessing without levels
The chance to break free from using National Curriculum levels for assessment offers us real opportunity:
- The opportunity to provide our students with formative feedback that means something
- The opportunity to create an “Ethic of Excellence” – where excellence is expected and everyone can improve and aim for excellence
- The opportunity to develop a curriculum that instils a growth mindset – no glass ceilings or self-labelling by students, e.g. “I’m a level 5”
- The opportunity to develop a curriculum that goes “beyond” the traditional programme of study, to provide real stretch and challenge
- The opportunity to develop more meaningful reporting for students and parents
In February of this year, a number of schools submitted applications to the DfE for Assessment Innovation Funding to develop post-levels assessment systems that could be shared with other schools. Durrington High School were one of the 9 schools that were successful, and whose ‘Growth and Thresholds’ model is very closely aligned with our own thinking. Much of the initial ideas on ‘assessing without levels’ shared at our first curriculum conference were informed by this model.
Thresholds and progression
New thresholds based on mastery of core knowledge and skills will need to be determined. Our English department’s recent work with David Didau saw the development of our initial threshold names. It also saw the birth of the “Beyond” threshold, which we are keen to adopt in all subjects to ensure we ‘keep the bar high’ and extend our students beyond the traditional confines of their current Key Stage and into the next. Progression to the current and new GCSE thresholds could then look something like this:
Organising concepts and threshold knowledge & skills
Each subject area will need to determine their own ‘organising concepts’ or ‘big ideas’ as well as the key knowledge and skills for each of the six thresholds. An example for Science is shown below: Assessing only the key knowledge and skills that continue into Key Stage 4 and beyond, will allow our students to develop a deeper understanding of concepts. It will also provide our teachers with an opportunity to give focused and meaningful formative feedback to students and parents on how to progress further.
A range of data could be used to determine a baseline for each student, including, for example:
- KS2 English + Maths test scores
- KS2 Teacher Assessment and dialogue with feeder schools
- MidYIS / CAT3 ability testing
- FFT estimates
- Internal tests on entry
- Reading ages
Professor Robert Coe’s blog has also been useful in developing our understanding of what makes a ‘good’ test.
Achievement focused tracking and reporting
Once a baseline has been established for each student, progress could then be measured relative to this. For example, a student with a baseline of “Excellence” would be making Expected progress if assessed as achieving the “Excellence” threshold, Good progress if they were assessed as “Beyond” and Less than expected progress if assessed as “Confident” etc. This model supports our aim that all students can move through the thresholds, aiming for the “Excellence” and “Beyond” thresholds, providing they have demonstrated the required mastery of key knowledge and skills at those thresholds. Tracking could also incorporate numerical values broadly aligned to the new GCSE thresholds. Using the previous example, a student with a baseline of “Excellence” would be allocated a score of 9. If the same student was assessed as achieving at the “Confident” threshold (allocated a score of 8), their achievement would be -1 for example.
There was wide support during the meeting for agreeing a set of common thresholds to be used by all subjects. Ideas were then discussed in subsequent department meetings, prior to pooling them via subject leads using a padlet wall. We then decided upon the following thresholds to be used in all subjects:
We have since held the second of our curriculum conferences for mid-leaders. In the next blog in this series, we will share our ideas on Designing a post-levels curriculum and assessment model from scratch, including more detail on:
- why we are moving away from levels
- suggestions on how to move from organising concepts to a lesson by lesson overview
- curriculum planning tools that could be used to adopt a common planning framework
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