3 ways to impress Ofsted with your no-levels assessment framework

Assessment for Key Stages 1 – 3 has changed, and with it the Ofsted inspection framework. As you begin the new school year, here are 3 ways to impress Ofsted with your new no-levels assessment framework.

1. Don’t neglect summative assessment

You can get granular and detailed information from formative, skills based tracking. But don’t forget the value of summative assessment for monitoring the progress of your key groups, setting targets for students in a way that makes sense to parents, and flagging concerns.

Ofsted are clear that they will continue to see targets as important, stating that inspectors will consider how well “…all pupils are set aspirational targets, and…are on track to meet or exceed these expected standards by the end of each key stage”.

One of the simplest and most effective ways of reporting on students’ summative progress is to track the percentage of the curriculum they’ve mastered. It’s easy to set targets with this system, and those targets are, in turn, easily communicable to other school stakeholders. Indeed, monitoring ‘curriculum mastery’ throughout the school year has been highlighted by the leaked Commission on Assessment Without Levels report as key.

Beware, however, the temptation to wait for the new national accountability measure to be revealed before you design a summative assessment method of your own. The new national measure will be ‘cohort referenced’, meaning it will vary from year to year, and it will describe what a pupil knows relative to his or her peers, not just what they know. The Commission on Assessment Without Levels report states that,  “Local summative assessment should not be driven by nationally collected forms of summative assessment. What works best for national accountability purposes does not necessarily work best for supporting teaching and learning or for monitoring pupil progress.”

Ultimately, a strong summative reporting system makes for clear discussions around progress between staff, parents, governors, and, of course, the inspectorate.

2. Be systematic in your data analysis

In the Schools Inspection Update sent to HMIs in March, Sean Harford, the National Director of Schools for Ofsted, wrote that, “the strongest reporting focuses on evaluation and not description.”

One of the driving factors in the move away from National Curriculum levels was to encourage a concurrent move away from descriptive reporting (‘Boys with long hair are on average a level 5b, having made 2 sublevels of progress’), and on to evaluative reporting (eg ‘None of the boys with long hair have mastered addition of three digit numbers, but they are excellent at statistics. Clearly there is something they find more engaging in statistics so we should consider our approach to these topics’).

Teachers and school leaders have been doing this for years informally, but by formalising and systemising the process, the aim is to ensure that no one slips through the gaps.

By scheduling the time to do this, releasing the results to your teachers, and documenting what’s being done to tackle problems, it will be very clear to an inspector that your school embraces the detail which skills-based tracking allows.

3. Moderate internally and with schools using similar curricula

One of the consequences of removing a national standard for assessment and learning is the loss of school-to-school consistency. Ofsted have picked up on this, stating that they will consider how well “teachers make consistent judgements and share them with each other; for example, within a subject, across a year-group and between adjacent year groups.”

This means that internal moderation is a must – but Ofsted go even further, discussing the benefits of working with other schools “to develop common understanding of attainment.”

This is easier if your school is using a popular curriculum like the Rising Stars Progression Frameworks, or if you’re in a federation of schools using the same curriculum. If not, you’ll have to get a bit more creative and look for some allies – maybe you could get another school to use your curriculum!

Conclusion

Ofsted have acknowledged that with so many recent changes this will be a year of turbulence as schools decide on new assessment methods, and trial and error will be rife. I hope the above helps, and wish you the best of luck for 2015/16!