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School’s replacement for levels spans early years to GCSE

9th June 2015

A Hampshire secondary school has developed an assessment system to run from its primary cluster’s early years classes right up to GCSE.

Bay House School in Gosport has spent the past 12 months working on its “mastery” system in response to the government’s scrapping of levels. The methodology was originally devised for its own students only.

“We started with the achievements of our pupils and set an ambitious target beyond the limitations of the A* grade at GCSE. We then discussed the knowledge and skills someone achieving this target would need to possess,” writes Aislynn Matthias, writing in the 5 June issue of TES.

“Working backwards, we identified a series of 90 ‘mastery points’ in each subject, which were anchored to the national curriculum and the 9-1 grading system for the new GCSEs, which will be taught from September.”

In this new system, pupils will be able to work towards mastering key skills and knowledge rather than achieving a level. So instead of a teacher assigning a generic “4b” grading for a piece of work, they will look for evidence of knowledge and skills and map those on to the mastery framework, a digital record developed inhouse by the school.

“In this way, teachers will have absolute clarity about what students can do. From a curriculum design perspective, it also offers huge potential: teachers and heads of department will be able to identify which topics and skills their classes have mastered and which areas require further input,” writes Matthias.

“Interventions can become far more precise and teachers can take the opportunity to work with individuals or groups who are missing key skills or have gaps in their knowledge.”

During the development process, Matthias – who is transition lead for the school – realised the potential of sharing the system with the school’s cluster of primaries, which were seeking their own solutions to life without levels.

“We realised we had a unique opportunity to extend the reach of our assessment reform still further,” she writes. “A coherent, logical and tangible ‘map’ of progression from Year 7 to mastery beyond A* at GCSE had started to emerge, which prompted us to ask a more ambitious question: is it possible to create a meaningful ‘flight path’ of learning progression from early years to key stage 4?

“We shared our initial work on mastery with the headteachers of junior and infant schools in our cluster, posing this very question. We now have a shared excitement about embracing this opportunity.”

Although there is more work to do, Matthias says the system emerging is exciting for all involved.

“There has long been a need for a more qualitative system of assessing pupils’ achievements – one that can be shared between teachers, schools, pupils and parents,” she writes. “If we are successful in this development, at every stage of schooling, from Reception to Year 11, teachers in our cluster schools will be confident about how to plan lessons that form significant steps on a child’s journey towards mastery.”

Read more on the TES website