When your child's school report arrives in the coming days, it could well be the last time you'll be seeing those 2a, 3c, 4b scores. Thanks to the late controversial Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove's initiative, from September these 'National Curriculum levels' will be scrapped.
Although in reality it was only ever a legal requirement for parents to receive levels for Years 2 and 6 pupils, schools did use the system throughout to measure progress and most reported results in this way to parents at other times.
It isn't a perfect system and some of us would prefer to see the back of all this yard sticking altogether, especially for primary age kids. But for most of us parents it has its uses.
Levels give us an idea of where our children are at compared to national averages (rather than old style class rankings, which were misleading if the class was far more or less able than is typical), and a clear map of what they need to learn and master to achieve the next level. They are more meaningful than a general below/ meeting/ above age-related expectations too.
The reason why they're going? Not because they are unwieldy for teachers (they can be) and turn our children into numbers not names (critics would argue they do) but largely because, according to the Department of Education, we, the parents, allegedly find them too confusing.
What is to come instead though is surely going to be far more of a muddle: individual schools will be free to choose their own systems to assess how children are doing but they must still have a system and will be tied to the new curriculum too.
The result, instead of all schools reporting progress in the same way (albeit sometimes despite checks and balances, they didn't always use levels truly consistently), you could find a myriad different methods out there.
Why does this matter and why is it going to be more confusing for mums and dads? Well what about when a pupil switches schools? How can we (and indeed the new school) continue to understand progress between the before and after. Changing schools is a time when it's particularly useful to see how a child is doing due to the upheaval involved. Should you want to support your child's education at home, you can nip out and pick some workbooks or go onto education websites and these will often be organised by levels. But with no national system, this too will be tricky. Naming them by year group won't work if a child is ahead or behind average (admittedly not the education world's greatest problem).
Currently, if you want to find out more about how your child is achieving, you can run a quick internet search and uncover information about what exactly a 2c in maths means they have mastered, what their next steps will be and roughly where they are at compared to national expectations. Not all schools are good at explaining this stuff and it's useful to be able to easily get the scoop.
Granted the way levels are named is a little confusing - with the letters and numbers going in opposite directions, and them not matching year groups (so a level 5 is not the expectation for an average year 5) but with a little explanation, it really isn't rocket science.
Levels aren't perfect but we're used to their quirky ways – it was nothing that a brochure or leaflet or some minor tinkering with the names couldn't have remedied.
Most of us really do have the intellectual capabilities to manage to work it out.
If we are going to have our children assessed to the nth degree, all schools making the same assessments using the same system is actually preferable.
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