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Do levels matter?

(12 Posts)
GreatJoanUmber Mon 08-Dec-14 21:52:09

I've recently been to DS1's parents evening, where his teacher gave me his current and predicted levels for reading, writing and maths (they still use NC levels to record ability and attainment). I was pleased with the levels and his work (looked through all his school workbooks), also with the targets set for him, etc.
Only now I'm wondering if his reading level was correct. The teacher had classed him as 1a (predicted 2b at the end of the year), but he is on white band books which he reads with no problems. He can decode pretty much everything, but also has good understanding of storyline, characters, language; he reads with good expression, and also does 'comprehension' work at school where he's given a random text (fiction or non-fiction) and has to answer questions about it (and teacher commented how well he does there).
So I think that technically his reading would be at a higher level than 1b; but I'm not sure if it really matters? Is it worth having a word with the teacher? Do I just let it go, as long as he makes progress?
When do levels become important?

MillyMollyMama Mon 08-Dec-14 23:43:54

I don't know about the levels of books you mention and you don't say what year your DS is in. Does the school do the optional SATs in year 2? This will give you a more accurate picture. Will the school give you his reading age at some point later this year, rather than a level? Levels only come into their own when children need to access the secondary curriculum and poor reading ability is a problem then. We also know that children with Level 3 at the end of KS2 are far less likely to get 5 A*-C at GCSE than the children who get a high Level 4 and those with Level 5.

Children do not progress evenly. They can plateaux and then make a great leap forward. If he is 1a, the target is fairly challenging but he may well be on the cusp of a 2c. This would make a 2b attainable. As the teacher has not lowered the predicted level, I would say he is nearly a 2c. If this is year 1, he is doing fine, if it is year 2, he is the nationally expected average. If he is Reception, he is very good at reading!

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 05:51:51

There isn't and optional SATs paper in Y2 only statutory testing ((not accessible for a child working below level 2). The tests only provide a small snapshot of a child's reading ability as it's basically a multi choice comprehension test. I

Feenie Tue 09-Dec-14 07:05:35

It's quite amazing how many people think that the Y2 tests are either a) the only assessment in Y2 or b) totally optional! They are polar opposite opinions and completely wrong - but very common on threads referring to Year 2.

mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 07:27:44

OP this is the final year that levels will be used. Only the current Y2and 6 will use levels. Next year he will be assessed using a method the school chooses to adopt.

GreatJoanUmber Tue 09-Dec-14 09:39:13

Thanks for all the comments. He's in year 1 and I'm aware that the levels are not relevant anymore.
I guess my predicament is more - if you look up white book band on one of these charts, it tells you it's roughly equivalent to level 2a. Generally, my main worry is that school are letting him coast along, rather than challenging him. These numbers don't alleviate that worry. Should I voice doubts about the numbers though (knowing they don't really mean anything), or just keep an eye on the progress he makes / that he does make progress and it is being recorded?

redskybynight Tue 09-Dec-14 12:23:34

OP - you are confusing 2 things
- his level (now officially obsolete anyway) AND
- what your child is being asked to do/ whether he is being challenged.

You said at the beginning of your post that you were pleased with his work, and his targets - that's surely the important bit, and not an artificial number that has been assigned to him? Especially as he's been assessed as a 1a, which could well mean that lots of his reading ability is already at Level 2, but there is one particular aspect that needs work and is stopping him being levelled more highly.

PastSellByDate Tue 09-Dec-14 14:00:42

Hi GreatJoan:

With the health-warning that I've become a cynical old thing over the years....

I suspect that the national dropping of NC Levels in England to a free for all with each school entirely free to choose their method of evaluation of pupil work won't help parents...

The reality is we do talk to other parents - when we get together with friends, meet up in the park, etc.... - and if you're spending time with other children you do form an opinion (maybe A plays snakes and ladders more easily than your own DC, much better able to add 1-6 to numbers to 100 than your own/ maybe B has work up on the wall which clearly is beautifully written or includes clever ideas). The point about NC Levels is that they were a means of understanding how your child was progressing in terms of national testing in Year 2 (KS1 SATs) and Year 6 (KS2 SATs).

MN has a lovely explanation of expected progress against NC Levels throughout primary here: - the tables at the bottom show the notional progress expected for a 'typical' child at the END of a given school year (?MN typical - teachers have posted this isn't the scale they work to).

So your child performing at 1A right now in Year 1 - does indicate he's doing very well indeed.

What I will say with reading schemes (so the colour bands) [and bearing in mind I'm just a Mum] - is that Reading isn't just saying words on a page, but will include ability to discuss aspects of stories and structure of books (authors/ illustrators/ index/ glossary/ aspects of plot/ which character you like or dislike and why/ etc...) - so although I don't completely know - but just guessing - I wonder if it isn't a case of your DC may be technically reading quite well - but he may not yet be performing at NC L2 ability in terms of discussing the stories he's reading.

What the teacher is saying is that they predict he will be.


As a parent - regardless of what evaluation system the school your DC attends adopts post NC Levels (and some are just sticking with it) the point is to understand what the next step for your DC might be. So that right now your DC is able to read out text quite well, but [fill in the blank] (but for example needs to move on to reading with more expression and being able to discuss elements of the story).

I found that this was always handled very vaguely - so it may help to look at this:

it clearly lays out what reading skills the teacher is looking for to assess your child at a particular level. Each school handles this differently - but our school certainly wanted to observe a skill 3 times and would not count times when the skills was demonstrated during 'group work'/ 'working with a friend'. I also think that with 30 kids and teachers having to document these skills - you can envision that this is in fact a very slow and longwinded process - so maybe your child is seriously observed once a week on this.


mrz Tue 09-Dec-14 17:12:18 explains why levels have always been "unreliable" measure

apotatoprintinapeartree Tue 09-Dec-14 17:17:33

Hello OP

I don't agree with levels or targets. to me if a child is showing progress then this is all that matters.
I think this way because everybody is different and the progress made can vary from year to year, so targets for levels too are a complete waste of time.
I think personal and precise targets are good like "learn 6x table"
"to be able to spell this list of words" and a time frame.

simpson Tue 09-Dec-14 19:54:20

What is his writing like?

How is he at comprehension/reading exercises? NC Levels are more than just being able to read but to infer, retrieve information, show evidence (in the text) for a view point.

GreatJoanUmber Wed 10-Dec-14 12:40:56

Thank you for the replies, especially PastSellByDate, I found your answer very helpful.
Simpson, as stated in the OP his comprehension is good, he understands what he reads, the structure of fiction/non-fiction books, enjoys word play in stories etc. he's doing comprehension work at school and does very well at that. His writing is also good, he's a very accurate speller and beginning to use more complex sentences (his writing was levelled 1b, also with a 2b prediction for the end of the year).
As for his targets, the teacher told me what they will do in maths and writing and yes I'm pleased with those targets; for reading she just said they had introduced comprehension work and he's doing well at that, and that she has trouble finding challenging books for him. I guess it's just comprehension that he needs to work on more then? As his reading age according to Burke test (sp?) is 11.4, but as far as I understand that only tests decoding ability.

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