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Assessment and the New National Curriculum

A new national curriculum has been introduced from September 2014.  In the new curriculum, the old levels used to describe a child’s learning do not exist.  There is now a broad descriptor for each subject in each year group in the primary school and the school has to assess at the end of each year whether a child has met this expectation in terms of the skills, knowledge and understanding. 
At Mill Hill Primary School:
  • A child’s learning will be described as “investigating” if they have gained much of the skills, knowledge and understanding expected for their age but not all. 
  • A child’s learning will be described as “achieving” if they have broadly met all the skills, knowledge and understanding expected for their age.
  • A child’s learning will be described as “exceeding” if they have achieved all the skills, knowledge and understanding that is expected for their age group and a considerable amount of learning has been understood at a greater depth.
The staff have used the national curriculum and added what we call “the school’s curriculum” to it.  The school’s curriculum is additional learning and focus that is particularly relevant to our children to ensure that they are engaged in and inspired by their learning.  It also considers where the focus of teaching needs to be placed to ensure that all our children have the best possible chance of success both now and in the future.  For example, we have identified a need to have more opportunities for children to communicate with others both verbally and in writing as this is an area which many of our children find difficult.  We have also decided to offer children a wide range of real experiences through trips and visitors to the school because we have found that this secures the best learning outcomes for many of our children.

The staff have identified “critical learning” which will be taught in each year group in every curriculum area.  This is the learning we want all the children to “get under their belts” in that year group.  This learning is described in more detail on our curriculum pages.  It is this learning which we will refer to when making our end of year assessment about whether each child is investigating, achieving or exceeding. The expectation nationally is that at least 85% of children will be achieving the expected learning for their year group.

The teachers are planning the learning in short blocks of time (about 3 weeks) with a clear expectation of what children will have learned at the end of the block.  This is called “outcomes driven planning” and we are expecting it to raise the levels of children’s learning because it is very tightly focussed and is reviewed very regularly to allow for any misconceptions to be dealt with. Teachers will assess each child’s learning after each block of time to make an assessment as to whether they are investigating, achieving or exceeding.  These assessments will be drawn together to make the final assessment at the end of the year.

We have agreed that, while we are all becoming more familiar with the new system of assessment, we will also continue to make judgements based on the old level descriptors from the previous national curriculum. There are some difficulties with this and so we will continue to review our practice over the year.  The difficulties are:
  • The new national curriculum is aimed at a higher level for each year group
  • The new national curriculum works in a holistic way which is completely appropriate in the primary years; the children learn a concept and regularly revisit it in different ways and through different curriculum areas to continually deepen and strengthen their understanding.  This is why the overall assessment at the end of the year is so appropriate (just as it currently works in the Foundation Stage).  The old levels are linear and assume that learning grows a little at a time and this can slow down learning for many children who are quite capable of making big leaps in their understanding.
Bearing these difficulties in mind, the old levels will just be used as a guide with the expectation being that most children should be level 2b+ by the end of year 2, level 3b+ by the end of year 4 and level 4b+ by the end of year 6. This will be a significant increase in our present standards and we will really value parents working alongside us to support children in their learning. 
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