Decision to scrap levels won’t help pupils, say heads in major survey

Less than a quarter of school leaders think the end of the national curriculum levels system of assessment will benefit pupils, a survey by TES and headteachers’ union the NAHT shows.

Nearly half the respondents (49 per cent) say the government’s decision to abolish levels and allow schools to set up their own assessment systems will increase teacher workload. Only 2 per cent of school leaders think it will reduce workload.

Schools are supposed to be preparing for a complete switch to the new assessment systems at the start of this term. But in the poll of 935 heads, deputies and assistant heads, carried out this week, 12 per cent of those surveyed say their school is continuing to use the levels system even though it does not match the new national curriculum. Another 7 per cent say their school is still undecided about what to do.

A large majority of schools do have a new assessment system in place, the survey finds, with the most popular solution proving to be buying in systems from external organisations.

“We should not mourn the end of levels, but the mode of their passing left much to be desired,” said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT. “Teachers can do better than levels; the trouble is, they are not left to their own devices.

“Accountability looms over any choices that schools make about assessment – they know they will be called on many times to provide quantifiable data on progress and predictions of performance,” he added. “For this reason, schools needed more clarity on the transition and direction of travel.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “For two decades, schools have argued that formal assessment has impacted negatively on standards. So we’ve responded to this, by giving teachers the freedom to assess their pupils in the way that works best for them.”

Read the full article in the 4 September of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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