20 February 2014

The report from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Commission on Assessment Without Levels has been released, with the aim of establishing key national principles for assessment to preserve consistency between schools when the current Government-approved system of levels ends in September 2014.

The NAHT admits that, while levels had some weaknesses, they nevertheless provided a shared professional language for measuring pupil achievement against objective criteria.

Instead, from September 2014, schools will be free to design their own assessment systems.

This, however, leads to the danger of inconsistency or schools spending large amounts of public money on commercial alternatives.

Key recommendations from the report include a checklist to underpin a consistent approach in schools nationwide, the continued use of levels while a new system is developed, judging pupils against objective criteria rather than ranking them against each other, external moderation and assessment driven from the curriculum.

Russell Hobby, NAHT General Secretary, explained that the profession must “take ownership of assessment”, adding “just because the Government ceases to regulate something does not mean the profession must accept fragmentation”.

He wants to keep the good parts of the previous assessment system, while taking this opportunity to address its flaws and ensuring “consistency without strait-jacketing schools”.

Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), believes that the Commission’s process has highlighted that the core purpose of school assessment is to “inform teaching and learning in order to help pupils make best progress”.