Levels should not be given on one piece of work or test. THey are for assessing a body of work. We all give targets for some individual tasks, but these are a bit arbitrary. We should refuse to do it tbh. I give some single piece notional levels, but anything I report to parents is based on a whole unit's work.
At our school we definitely don't assign every homework with a level, particularly Maths who NEVER give a level for homework, but most subjects only give levels once per half term and the pupils know which homework is the assessed one.
In Maths we do tests each half term and are reasonably happy to give levels from those, but we actually take the average from the last 3 tests in order to give levels (and grades at GCSE) because, as you say, different topics are different levels and it's unsettling to get 6b for equations but only 5c for fractions, etc.
Ofsted expect the pupils to know their targets. That's why most schools tell the kids. They also tell them so that pupils don't compare themselves (as much) to others in the class, so the brightest pupils have the highest targets and shouldn't compare themselves to the pupil who scraped into that set and needs the confidence boost. They may all have level 5s on leaving primary school, but the school may know that x scored 99% to get a veery high 5a, where y only just scraped into a 5c, so their targets for this year are different.
I do think it becomes a problem when pupils have targets that are not really catered for in tests. It is very difficult to get the highest level available on a test, there have been several times dd1 has not achieved her targets because the test doesn't allow her to (ie, she got 98% which gave her a 7c, but her target is a 7a, obviously getting the last 2% isn't enough to move her up 2 sublevels is it?).
Can any secondary teachers give me their thoughts on something that is annoying DD2(Y7)
They have targets for science, her's is fairly high (6u I think), anyhow a lot higher than many of her class, despite being set.
Trouble is despite getting a good mark in her test, she only got a 6, while her class mates got house points for meeting their lower targets and consequently were smug and unpleasant to those who haven't hit theirs.
This would be ok in a mixed ability group, but this is set one in an area where I suspect they are all L5 on leaving primary. There targets must be pretty arbitrary.
I know teachers need targets to monitor progress (a very rude word due to our recent run in with Ofsted), but why do the children need to know them. Surely a pupils target is to do the very best they can.