Final independent report on assessment without levels released

Advice offered to schools on creating their own assessment model, rather than a prescriptive approach

The Commission on Assessment Without Levels released its final report this afternoon, providing ‘advice and support to schools in developing new approaches to their own in-school assessment and to ensure they have information to make informed choices about what might work for their pupils, staff and curriculum’.

Chair of the Commission John McIntosh, says in its forward that the report “does not provide schools with a template for assessment without levels but offers guidance and support to help schools in designing their own assessment policies, in parallel with their curriculum policies”. Those who have been waiting for a new assessment framework to be handed to them may be disappointed, but it does offer guidance on the kind of questions schools should be asking:

‘The Commission has not sought to prescribe any specific model of assessment, but to highlight the principles which should underpin any approach. These principles are presented in the form of questions that school leaders and teachers can ask themselves when developing their approach to in-school formative and summative assessment.’

The report offers recommendations that ‘will be helpful in supporting on their journey towards developing new systems of assessment’, but recognises ‘that further support may be needed to embed and share good practice’. These include:

• The appointment of a standing committee on assessment, supported by a panel of experts
• That assessment is included in the core content for teacher training
• The development of a training module that can be used for both senior leaders in schools and Ofsted inspectors to ensure a shared understanding of the principles and purposes of assessment, what good practice looks like and how it can be demonstrated in schools
• The decision to not offer a prescriptive approach to assessment is based on ‘the benefits of giving schools the opportunity to develop their own approaches to assessment that focus on teaching and learning and are tailored to the curriculum followed by the school.’

There is also guidance on assessment policies and on data collection and reporting, as well as advice on evaluating external assessment systems and their suitability to your school’s curriculum.

The DfE’s response has been almost unanimously in agreement with the Commission’s findings and recommendations: ‘We recognise that schools may require varying degrees of support in order to adapt to assessment without levels. We are grateful to the Commission for their advice to schools on the fundamental purposes and principles of high-quality assessment. It is important for schools to consider how they use assessment to support good teaching practice. It is right that the Commission has not prescribed a specific model for in-school assessment. We believe that schools are best placed to determine what type of system will work for them. They have detailed knowledge of their pupils and the expertise to apply it. We encourage schools to make the most of the freedoms offered by the removal of levels and to use the Commission’s advice to think carefully about the kind of system that would best meet the needs of their pupils, curriculum and staff when developing or reviewing their approach.’

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