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The New Curriculum

In September 2014, the Government made significant changes to the way that children in primary schools are assessed. The changes to assessment tied in with the launch of the New National Curriculum, with the use of nationally agreed curriculum ‘levels’ being replaced with a system which has put far greater emphasis on individual schools developing their own assessment procedure and practice. The information below will clarify what the changes mean for our children at Earl Spencer Primary School.

So why have National Curriculum Levels disappeared?

The DfE wanted to avoid what has been termed ‘The Level Race’ where children moved through the old National Curriculum levels quickly to achieve higher attainment. The old National Curriculum was sub-divided into levels, but these were not linked to their national curriculum year group. For example, a child in Year 4 could be a Level 3 or even a level 5. Children were achieving Level 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2, but the DfE thought that a significant number were able to achieve a Level 5 or 6 in a test—but were not secure at that level. The feeling from the DfE was that the old national curriculum and the levels system failed to adequately ensure that children had a breadth and depth of knowledge at each national curriculum level.

Assessing Without Levels

The DfE announced last year that there would no longer be National Curriculum levels and that schools should set up their own way of assessing pupils. At Earl Spencer, we spent time researching various different methods of assessing pupils before making decisions about the way forward. 

Almost all of the systems used the same format, which was similar to the system used in our Foundation Stage. This was to take the end of year expectations for each year group and to split this into 3 categories:

  • Working Towards Expected— yet to be secure in the end of year expectations.
  • Expected—secure in the majority of the end of year expectations.
  • Exceeding Expected—secure in almost all or all the end of year expectations and is able to use and apply their knowledge and skills confidently.

The system is designed to ensure children have more opportunities to develop their using and applying skills. This phase of learning is known as ‘Mastery and Depth’.

By the end of Key Stage 1 (Year 2)

It is anticipated that the majority of children will reach the assessment point of Year 2 expected, a smaller number of children will reach Year 2 exceeding, and a small number will be Year 2 emerging, or possibly Year 1 exceeding/expected/emerging.

By the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6)

Similar to Year 2 there will be some children who may be Year 6 exceeding and some children who are Year 6 emerging. There may also be a small number of children who are still working at a lower level e.g. Year 4/5 exceeding/expected/emerging.


The Symphony Assessment System-

After investigating many different Assessment & Tracking systems, we decided to introduce the Symphony AssessmentSystem. Symphony enables us to assess how children are progressing over the course of the year, in relation to with Age Related Expectations (ARE):

  • Working Towards ARE
  • At ARE
  • Above ARE

To ensure that assessment judgements are accurate and consistent, staff attend several in school moderation meetings over the course of the year.  Additionally, we also moderate our judgements alongside 9 other Primary schools from across the Duston Cluster and receive external moderation visits from the Local Authority in for EYFS, Year 2 and year 6.  Moderation gives us confidence that the judgements we make accurately assess how each individual child is progressing, in relation to the National Curriculum outcomes.

Informing Parents-

It is important we ensure that parents are clear on how their child is progressing in all areas of the curriculum, both in terms of the progress they are making and how highly they are attaining compared to national expectations.

We aim to inform and engage parents in a number of ways over the course of the school year:

-Through regular Parents’ Consultation Meetings;

-Through written reports home;

-Through information sessions run by various school leaders;

-Through ensuring that our children, as they progress through the school, have increasing ownership over their learning, understand the progress they are making and are involved in setting themselves challenging targets.