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No more levels!

This week has been all about assessment. Our Y6 pupils have had four days of testing involving reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation and mathematics. Some children have had additional Level 6 tests in the same subjects. We have all been very impressed with how they approached their tests and how determined they were to do well. They have worked very hard all year to prepare and so knew exactly what they had to do.

At 8:30 each morning, Y6 came into school early to have their ‘SATs breakfast’. This helped them to settle down and feel confident as the tests started later in the morning. It is very important that we strike the right balance with the children in terms of the importance of these tests. They have to be done and children need to ‘do their best’ but we have to make sure they do not find them too stressful. We had a few nerves but on the whole the children saw them as a challenge they were keen to meet. Well done to Y6 and all of those adults in school and at home who have contributed to the effort!

It was interesting to reflect on this testing experience on Friday when Mr Rhodes and I went to speak to the Bury Headteachers Forum about our approach to assessment. The system of testing will remain at Y1 (phonics screening), Y2 and Y6 in the future but the nature of some of the tests are expected to change. We are also about to find out about a new ‘baseline’ test that will take place as children enter our school in YR. Obviously, this will not be a ‘sit-down, pencil and paper’ test as in Y6 but it will assess what children can do in key areas.

When we spoke to the Headteachers on Friday, we reflected on the fact that levels have been part of our professional life since 1988. The levels assessment system no longer reflects the demands of the new curriculum. As there is no national system for assessing this curriculum, schools have had to create their own. Some schools fear this but we have embraced it. We have been able to create a curriculum for Unsworth children which allows for both a rigorous approach to the basic skills but also gives them a rich experience of culture, sciences, sport and the arts.

The challenge has been to assess all of this and consider the information staff need in order to plan next steps; the information parents need to be assured of their child’s progress and the information needed for external bodies such as the local authority and Ofsted to evaluate standards. Not an easy task. Mr Rhodes has tweeted an interesting take on the issue from a Nottinghamshire deputy headteacher this week. Well worth a read!

Our approach has been a fairly straightforward one though it has taken a lot of thought and work to put it together. Essentially, it has been to design a curriculum for each class, to plan the teaching approaches needed to deliver it and then to assess what children can do and record the findings. What children can do is assessed against a set of age-related expectations.

In July, parents will receive an annual report on their child’s progress as usual. In all classes, apart from Y2 and Y6, they will reflect the new curriculum. In Y2 and Y6 they will reflect the old curriculum in line with the system of national testing. We will attempt to explain all these changes with additional information sent home with the reports. If you click on the tabs within our Curriculum page on our website you can find information about Assessment without Levels.

I know Y6 had a special day of relaxation and fun on Friday as a treat for their hard work. Now the SATs are over we can make sure they enjoy the rest of their time at Unsworth and we can help get them ready for their transition to high school. We have many exciting experiences for all of our children coming up in the final half term of the school year. We will make sure you share it through our website and our Twitter account!



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