A life without levels - the future of Pupil Tracking

Many schools are concerned about the new curriculum changes for next year and in particular the need for an assessment model without levels. We would like to reassure you that we have a simple solution for you. We have been in close consultation with numerous schools, collaborative groups and local authorities for over a year planning for the new life without levels. We are now in a position to promise to provide a bespoke Pupil Tracker to fit the needs of any school. Existing users of our Pupil Tracker will be able to get an easy upgrade. Other schools can easily buy into the new Tracker.

Purpose

We believe schools need summary management information so that they know at any time the current attainment and progress being made by cohorts, subject areas and key pupil groups. It is also important to monitor the impact of key interventions. This “live” data is much more useful than the “post mortem” reflecting back on previous SATs once pupils have long gone as in Raise Online. An interrogation of the “live” data will enable effective self evaluation and action planning. The purpose of this is not to search for statistical proof but to prompt questions and inform key discussions among professionals. Teachers also need a quick identification of individual pupils who are working at lower than expected levels or making insufficient progress so the appropriate support can be targeted. We have been piloting our new Tracker without levels this year across London.

The system is based on Age Related Expectations. We are calling this the ARE Pupil Tracker. It follows on from the approach adopted by EY practitioners in recent years. The difficult work is being developed on curriculum descriptions to inform the new assessment. This is not our brief. It is our job to provide the Pupil Tracking solution.

Key Issues

The key discussions have been around the number of steps expected each year, the terminology for the steps and the scoring system. The consensus has been around having 3 steps per year. Some schools have wanted more – anything from 4 up to 9 but we think 3 is the correct approach. The 3 steps model provides an opportunity for a realistic approach to measuring good progress.

We believe a pupil moving from the expected level in Year 1 to expected by Year 6 will have made good progress. This, therefore, provides an opportunity to reset some of the misjudgements from Ofsted in recent years. We believe pupils working at expected levels and making expected progress is a good thing rather than only satisfactory and requiring improvement.

There has been much debate about the terminology to these steps. These have covered terms such as Emerging, Developing, Working within, Expected, Secure, and Exceeding. We personally prefer Emerging, Developing and Secure but are happy to work with anything. We do consider Mastering to be a sexist term although many are using that. We have developed a simple scoring system. The key is that this needs to be based on a linear model e.g. Year 4 secure is followed by Year 5 emerging etc. So a pupil in Year 4 might be emerging, expected or secure but could also be working at emerging Year 2 or secure Year 5 etc. We are suggesting a simple points score so that e.g. Year 2 expected is 15, Year 4 expected is 21 etc. We have built in some comparisons with the previous system to try and ensure we don’t have a “Year Zero” approach to the new assessments.

We have also built in the EY scores to attempt a seamless transition across EY, KS1 & KS2. We consider this to be critical as the current divide between EY and KS1 has been problematic and has often been misjudged by Ofsted Inspectors.

There has been a major debate on the best approach to the new assessment model. Some have argued for a “tick box” formula driven approach. This would mean a teacher going through numerous statements linked to each age expectation and ticking different combinations of statements which may have different weighting to produce an overall score or assessment. The alternative is “best fit” teacher judgement approach. Teachers would look at the statements against each expectation and then give a best fit answer. We are firmly on this side of the debate. We do not think the new approach should result in more work for teachers than is necessary and there is no need for electronic data entry for every statement within the curriculum.

Our experience of the tick box approach is that when teachers don’t agree with the statistically produced outcome, they revisit the ticks in order to try and arrive at what they believed the overall level to be. It is far easier to trust the teacher’s judgement to start with. We believe in teachers using their professional judgement to arrive at the “best fit” assessment. This would be backed up by good training and a strong system of moderation.

The way forwards

Schools currently using our Pupil Tracker will get a simple upgrade for September. We will provide bespoke solutions as needed. The advantage of our system over the alternative software companies is the ease of use and flexibility offered. We can easily tweak things as we go along as we are sure of the need to make amendments in line with future DfE and Ofsted developments. We will be much more reactive in making the necessary changes as we go along. We will be on top of changes to national requirements and be able to react immediately as needed.

To see a pilot model of our proposed ARE Pupil Tracker with our proposed scoring system click here. You are welcome to download a copy to look at and play with. All you then need to do is let us know what you need for next September by the end of Summer term and we will be happy to help. We will continue to provide a full analysis service under the new Tracking system and would urge schools to ensure they have a detailed analysis of their data at the end of this year before the changes take place. I am very happy to discuss any of these issues further by phone 07990 623 545 or e-mail info@edudatauk.co.uk