Jody Trayte talked to us about how High View School have made assessment purposeful and relevant again following the removal of levels.
Designing relevant, purposeful assessment
“We feel revolutionised!”
Assessment for everyone
“At High View, we saw the removal of levels as an exciting opportunity. It gave us the freedom to re-evaluate our assessment practices and, crucially, to think about how we could make our assessment more purposeful. We could design an assessment system that benefited everyone – not only our school leadership team – by making assessment more relevant to parents and to teaching and learning generally. We really believe that assessment can be something that resonates for everyone.
“The focus with our assessment policies has always been to ask: what’s the purpose of this assessment? What are we trying to achieve and how can we empower our teachers? We wanted to ensure we made the most of this opportunity, so we dedicated a lot of time to researching different approaches and strategies. We feel strongly that assessment should be at the core of what we do – it has to shape our practice – so we weren’t looking to rush into making changes.
Designing an approach
“We started out by looking at what methodologies were being made available by others. In particular we spent time looking at the STAT Sheffield approach. We weren’t sure that all aspects of this would work for us, but there were things we really liked about it. We decided to use this as a starting block on which to model our own practice.
“We then looked at the National Curriculum and spent a lot of time thinking about how we wanted to assess against it. We devised a system of teacher-assessed steps which children would move along as they went through the school. It’s a deliberately simple system, with a straightforward expectation that children should move up 6 steps each year. Alongside this we do summative testing, including NFER, which we use to cross-reference and check our teacher judgements.
“The simplicity means it makes sense to everyone, including parents. It makes it easy to understand exactly how children are doing and whether they’re on-track.
Refining our steps
“Once the framework of our system was in place, we set about deciding how we would actually make these judgements. We knew that in order for this assessment system to work, we needed clear criteria for deciding which step a pupil was at.
“Our teacher judgements are broadly based on coverage of the curriculum, but we felt it was important to give teachers leeway to make decisions on a per-child basis. We’ve had bad experiences with tracking systems in the past, where we’d ended up with tick boxes on a screen, trying to adjust the data so that the overall judgement would reflect where we knew a pupil to be. That was completely at odds with our thinking about assessment, so it was vital going forward that our teachers retain the ultimate decision for each child about whether their coverage represents achievement of a particular step or not.
“We also took on board that the new curriculum is based around the idea of mastery. We wanted to be able to show through our teacher assessment when children have mastered areas of the curriculum, and without this adding ‘points’ of progress. This was a key difference for us between our new approach and the old levels system, which encouraged teachers to move children further along the curriculum, rather than deepening their understanding.
“At this point we had a framework in place that was working well for us. In terms of a tracking system, Insight has given us a portal that’s flexible enough to store our bespoke assessments, and then quickly and easily analyse both our teacher judgements and tests. We like that it enables us to have conversations about individual pupils as well as groups (Pupil Premium, boys, girls, etc). It’s useful having it on hand whenever it’s needed – on an iPad in the classroom or at home on a Friday night! And whenever there’s been something we wanted to change, you’ve been brilliant at making it happen.
“Being able to take charge of our own assessment policies has meant that we feel confident and unified in our approach as a school. The most significant impact for our teachers has been that assessment now helps them with thinking about teaching and planning. We’ve seen a particular improvement in how quickly we help children close gaps and develop mastery, and so we’ve moved closer to our goal of teaching all children the same curriculum.
“Overall, we’ve been really happy with the changes to assessment. Our approach to assessment without levels is one we all believe in. We feel revolutionised!”