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Views & Opinion

So long, farewell, levels Comment by Rachael Marshman, product manager, Capita SIMS

We are in the midst of a period of uncertainty. National curriculum levels have been abolished in favour of Attainment 8 and Progress 8 measures. From 2019, all GCSEs will be graded from nine to one instead of A* to G. A new test for key stages one and two has been introduced and many children entering reception will take a baseline test. As schools come to terms with the changes, the single issue that is dominating meetings held in staff rooms up and down the country is just how do you evidence progress in this new landscape? Under the old system of levels, senior

leadership teams were able to calculate that Johnny had achieved a six-point progress score over two years, as expected. Now that there is no universal numerical score in place, how can schools determine whether Johnny is continuing to make the progress expected of him? In this post-levels world, the shift in focus is

now on what a child does or doesn’t know. When I visit a school and ask a member of staff about a specific child, they are able to discuss at length the progress they are making, including their strengths and weaknesses. Yet

many struggle with creating a robust system that can help them identify trends. Conversely, I have seen many alternative assessment systems which have contributed to a school receiving a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgement from Ofsted. We all agree that national curriculum levels

provided schools with a common language understood by everyone. But how can you replicate that degree of commonality? Many schools are opting to move away from

reporting a single grade which provides a crude indication of a student’s progress. Instead, senior leaders are starting to use varying methods of measuring progress that is not simply recreating levels, but meets the particular needs of their school and its students. Many lessons can be learnt from the

independent school sector where levels have not been in use for quite a while. Instead, they use effort scores, attainment guides and tests to provide all the information that they need to determine the progress of every student. I’ve seen a number of creative ways of

measuring assessment. One particular school operates a ranking system according to ability.

The ranking is calculated every term based on student test scores. School leaders can see whether an individual’s ranking has moved up or down to judge how much progress has been made. I recently visited a school that determines

whether a child is on track and making expected progress based on a definition of ‘on track’ that changes each term. Why? Well, it takes into account the high expectations set by staff of the knowledge a student must accrue each term. What’s more, the school sets out evidence of what ‘on track’ means at specific points throughout the academic year so that staff can clearly determine whether the criteria have been met. My advice for schools searching for new

ways of evidencing progress is to embrace the opportunities of assessing without national curriculum levels. By examining models in place at other schools, it is possible to overcome concerns about adding to a teacher’s workload and identifying best practice. More importantly, have confidence in your chosen method of tracking the progress of every student as they continue their learning journey.

Looking beyond mainstream education

for Britain’s young people Comment by Rosi Prescott, chief executive at young people’s charity, Central YMCA

The YMCA has just released its ‘World of Good’ report – looking at the main causes of harm to young people in modern Britain. Here, Rosi talks about how we need to address the lack of employment opportunities for younger generations and how mainstream education isn’t right for everyone. Today’s youngsters are facing the worst

economic prospects for several generations. The financial gap between old and young is increasing, house prices are rising, job prospects are concerning and all of this is harming to those people who fail to succeed within the current education system. The education of young people is a passion of

mine and we have an amazing infrastructure in the UK, but I do think we’re still putting too much reliance on mainstream education, when in fact, it doesn’t actually work for everyone. Aside from that, the rising cost of education, and specifically university tuition fees, means many young people are struggling to afford further education anyway. This is a much bigger issue for lower income families and only aggravates the impact of

April 2016

financial inequality on future employment opportunities. It’s distressing, yet not surprising therefore, to

find that our latest report, showed a lack of employment opportunities, and failing to succeed within the education system were the top two concerns for 16-25 year olds in Britain. Further to this, being in a low income bracket was cited as one of the biggest barriers for overcoming these challenges. There’s clearly a need to find solutions for

young people who fail to thrive within the education system. Mainstream education simply isn’t right for everybody and we work with thousands of young people every year who have fallen out of the system for one reason or another. Other types of education, such as

apprenticeships, are excellent ways of helping young people that struggle to learn in a traditional way. Our Study Programme, for example, attempts to tackle the issues caused by teaching ‘subjects for subjects’ sake’. So instead of teaching Maths and English in a traditional

way, students are taught the required skills to pass these core subjects through real-life situations and relatable subjects that they can easily engage with. Apprenticeship schemes like these are

increasing in popularity but we still need better engagement between schools and local businesses to prepare young people for work and training. The success of young people is important to everyone; employers who are looking for talent, business owners that want to ensure the security, safety and profitability of their company, funders wanting the right people to get on the ladder, and of course the learners whose opportunities really don’t always lie in the system of traditional schools and universities. We need to realise that each individual is

different, and not just try and force every young person to learn in exactly the same way. Apprenticeships are an excellent way for young people to make the transition between childhood and adult life. Mainstream education is great, and works for many, but it’s important to remember it’s not for everyone. 19

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