Abolished levels still used by one in three schools

More than a third of schools have continued using national curriculum levels to assess children, despite the system being abolished, research published by the Department for Education reveals.

A study of more than 2,000 teachers and senior leaders finds that 37 per cent had retained the system of levels in November last year, despite an announcement by the government in June 2013 that it would be scrapped because it was “complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents”.

Levels, which are broad descriptions of ability in each subject area, became redundant in September 2014, when the new curriculum was introduced for almost all children. The old curriculum remained only in maths, English and science for those taking tests in Year 2 and Year 6.

However, the survey, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, suggests that in November many schools had decided to “retain the current system for the time being”.

Schools have been given the freedom to replace levels with an assessment system of their own choice.

The survey finds 45 per cent were developing a new system to replace levels – 34 per cent were doing so internally and 11 per cent were using a system from a commercial organisation. Fifteen per cent were undecided about what would replace levels.

Primary schools were more likely than secondary schools to be developing a new system to replace levels, with secondaries more likely to retain the old system. Students were previously assessed using levels until the end of Year 9.

Tony Draper, headteacher of Water Hall Primary School in Milton Keynes, told TES it would be “difficult” for schools to continue using levels in the future because they did not match the new standards required under the reformed primary curriculum.

“I know some schools have tweaked levels so they marry up with the new standards, and that works for them,” he said. “But my only caution is, if you continue to use the old levels from September [2015] you could get a nasty surprise in next year’s Sats.

“You can’t match the old levels with the new standards…It’s like apples and pears.”

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