Assessing Progress without Levels

The withdrawal of National Curriculum (NC) Levels has prompted schools to rethink how they assess and monitor their pupil's progress. 

As schools try to adapt to the changes in assessment, and to implement their own effective approaches to it, the following are suggested as guiding principles:

  • Assessment policies should focus on supporting children’s progress towards learning of knowledge, concepts and skills;
  • Assessment policies should promote efficient use of effective assessment;
  • Assessment tasks should provide teachers with meaningful, useful insight (assessment for formative purposes) in the form of information about a child’s learning and ability to apply their learning to a broad range of contexts;
  • Assessments should enable dependable claims to be made about children’s learning (particularly when communicating with parents).
  • Specific tasks and questions should be which require children to do things in order to demonstrate their learning. For example, pieces of writing or diagrams and pictures are used as a means to assess the security and depth of understanding a child has attained.

What do these guiding principles mean for a school's approach to assessment? 

Individual teachers need to know which assessment evidence would indicate mastery of a topic area and ensure that data provided by assessments are of real, practical use to inform next steps in pupil learning.

If we think of any concept or construct we teach as a continuum which ranges from the very foundations through to mastery, it becomes all important to ensure that assessments used in schools are sensitive enough to detect where a child is on that continuum at any stage.

Finally in this section, it is worth reiterating that assessment should be effective for the purposes it fulfils, and efficient in its implementation. If the setting and marking of assessment tasks becomes too time consuming and onerous for teachers (as in the case of practices such as triple marking), its potential benefits are outweighed by its costs. In the language of economics, there is an ‘opportunity cost’ to any decision we make: by taking the opportunity of using assessment, we may lose other opportunities (such as teaching time), so the quality and value of the assessment must be high.


Think of an important concept in an area you teach. How would you assess whether a particular student has mastered it?

Describe the progression of a child’s learning from foundations to mastery in an area you teach. Now identify one or two tasks or responses that would indicate different levels on it.