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NC levels

(16 Posts)
Snapespotions Thu 05-Feb-15 00:34:31

It was previously my understanding that the curriculum was changing and that the old NC levels were going, except for children currently in year 2 and year 6.

However, my dd's school still seems to be using the old system for all year groups. DD had assessments recently and the results still follow the old format. She is in year 5.

I'm a bit confused by this. If the curriculum has changed, aren't the old levels irrelevant now? Is it likely that the school have just kept to the old system while they're trying to devise something else? And does anyone even know yet how the year 6 children will be assessed next year?

I know it doesn't really matter - dd is doing well, and I don't really need a level to tell me that - but I am curious. I suppose I could ask the teacher at parents' evening next week, but we only get 10 minutes and there are other things I want to discuss!

mrz Thu 05-Feb-15 07:47:16

Yes! the old levels don't reflect the current curriculum but some schools/teachers are clinging to the familiar others are hoping that at some point the government will present them with a national alternative system despite being told otherwise.

mrz Thu 05-Feb-15 07:49:04

Next year there will be new tests (drafts are available) and children will be given a numerical score.

Snapespotions Thu 05-Feb-15 07:55:16

Thanks mrz. I don't suppose the teachers have had much time to develop alternatives, so perhaps that's why they have stuck to the familiar system. I was just a bit surprised!

When you say that children will be given a numerical score in the tests next year, do you mean that they will get something like a percentage, or will it be more like numbered bands for different levels of achievement? (Sorry, not sure what the right terminology is, but hopefully you will know what I'm trying to ask!)

PastSellByDate Thu 05-Feb-15 10:48:25

Hi Snapes:

This little note on removal of national curriculum levels may help you understand a bit more:

Basically the government has dropped the old system and is replacing it with a 'descriptor' system - which isn't alphanumeric:

I'm not totally clear if they're still intending to report performance against national quentiles - so as a parent you would see whether your child is performing along the bell curve (lowest/ lower/ average/ higher/ highest ability bands) - somewhere along the way a newspaper was talking about reporting performance by ten percentage points - i.e. Johnny is performing in the bottom 10% nationally - which upset a lot of parents - as pretty well nobody would want to read that or their child to be upset by that result.

To say the least there is, as ever, an agenda here. The removal of national curriculum Levels/ sub-levels is also removing parents ability to gauge where their child is performing against national expectations. A school can choose to report that you're child is performing apples or unicorns, which is absolutely fabulous Mrs Snapes - and only at the end of KS2 are you going to learn that in fact they've failed to reach the national minimum target for achievement by end of Y6.

I think the system needs that checks/ balances approach - whereby parents absolutely understand the marking scheme and where children should be by a given point (and to be fair for KS1/2 at least the new programmes of study are pretty specific year on year - KS3 is much more vague unfortunately - just lumping the 3 years all together - which seems odd after so much effort at KS1/2). But I think government/ schools see this as a way of distancing parents from information/ reducing pressure to improve.

The reality is there has been a persistent level of low achievement at end of KS2 for decades (see guardian KS2 SATs data here: -scroll to tables at the bottom: from 1997's 67% achieving NC L4 to 2013's 86% achieving NC L4 in English and from 1997's 45% in maths to 2013's 85% achieving NC L4 in Maths - there has been a startling improvement.

Of course this also looks rather like the standardized tests may well have been watered down and/or schools are teaching/ coaching for the tests (which certainly was the case of DD1's school) - but still, recently (last 5-10 years) a steady 15-20% of pupils fail to achieve NC L4 and I doubt all of them are SEN statemented.

And I suspect these figures for maths KS2 SATS back in the mid-late 90s may also explain why my children's primary teachers were so shaky at maths (teaching/ basic mistakes/ poor feedback or correction/ unwilling to institute extension exercises for brighter pupils/ etc...) but were so effective at teaching them negative attitudes towards maths.

mrz Thu 05-Feb-15 17:27:09

Schools have had 2 years warning of the changes to get assessment in place ... Most have!

mrz Thu 05-Feb-15 17:42:42

The curriculum children were tested on in 1997 was very different to the curriculum children were tested on in 2014

mrz Thu 05-Feb-15 17:45:45

In 1997 level 6 (recently reintroduced) was part of the testing regime so I would question the article.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 10:34:10

mrz - I get there has been a change in reintroducing Level 6 - but NC Level 4 has been there throughout 1997 - 2013 - so one would presume that for all intents and purposes a NC L4 ability is relatively constant (and I get that the thresholds are reset each year - and of course there's no political pressure on that in say election years is there?).

Governments want the meta narrative of improving standards/ outcomes - and low and behold the statistics 1997 - 2013 do indeed show that story.

Are kids today really that much brighter than in 1997? or conversely that much dimmer than previously (as is constantly battled out in the media - where CBI/ businesses frequently bemoan lowering of literacy/ numeracy skills in prospective employees causing them to invest more heavily in training).

I can't answer this question yet - the first cohort (1997) of this KS2 SATs test series has only just reached University age. Time will tell - but my gut instinct is that improving results (as much as 100% improvement (i.e. doubling number of pupils achieving NC L4) in maths ability between 1997 - 2013) is as much to do with preparing pupils for the test as it is with knowledge amassed over 7 years in a primary school(s). Indeed, I would hasten to suggest mrz that you're not teaching 'more' curriculum, you're possibly teaching it differently, in a more focused way or in greater depth - but I suspect with the exception of computer programming (which is a new addition to the curriculum) what was covered in 1997 is not a million miles away from what is typically covered in 2013+.

MN164 Fri 06-Feb-15 12:07:03

Might be off point but here's what we learnt at a recent parent meeting:

Our state primary has been teaching to the new curriculum since September. The expectations for Maths and English have changed. The trend is for kids to be achieving things earlier (spellings, times tables, vocabulary etc).

The school has continued to use the old "levels" system for the first two terms of this year to trial how things are going. The new "band" system will be used from next term.

They predict a number of children will now be "below" expected levels because the expectation has been increased without enough time to catch up.

The new system won't apply to year 2, who will start it next year - nor to year 6 who will leave primary with the old "level" system.

The bands will now equate to years and be split into 3 sub levels.

e.g. Band 3 (lower, middle, upper) is for expected levels during year 3.

Spanish10 Fri 06-Feb-15 14:39:01

My son is in year 8, and his report ( the final one, I don't understand why so early) has levels.

mrz Fri 06-Feb-15 16:33:51

The data cited in the article doesn't mention the higher levels PSBD ... Or did I miss that?

mrz Fri 06-Feb-15 16:38:59

The first children to sit the Key Stage 2 tests will in fact be aged 30 now

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 17:35:06

mrz -

I'm not so concerned about L5/6 ability end KS2 - the point in Level 4 + ability has risen from roughly 40% achieving this in the late 90s to roughly 85% achieving this from 2010ish onwards.

Until the entire cohort has gone through the system it's difficult to determine if pupils at the beginning of this data are any better than pupils at the tail end of this data (pupils post 2008 have yet to go through the system).

Annectdotally - writing quality is declining. Many universities are now offering mentoring/ writing clinics to support the transition from A-Level style extended writing tasks to skill them up for essay where argument (rather than mentioning specific key facts in a particular marking scheme) are rewarded.

It is somewhat an unfair comparison (i.e. current University pupils vs. 1980s/ 1970s/ 1960s pupils) as the access to Universities has greatly widened and the number of pupils now being taught has increased geometrically in many places.

There's also a lot of queries about what is happening in senior school. Government revue in maths (The Vorderman Report) suggests stalling in maths tuition/ learning in Year 6/7 is a real issue with negative repercusions.

I'm not saying all the faults are in primary - but if genuinely 85% of pupils in England are doing so great - why isn't that following through at GCSE? at A Level? Why isn't that achievement maintained?

mrz Fri 06-Feb-15 17:53:08

A couple of years ago we began working more closely with the secondaries we feed. Heads and teaching staff who came to observe lessons were staggered by what is covered in primary and freely admitted that they were unnecessarily repeating work because they didn't expect primary children to be capable of understanding the concepts.
IMHE as a parent three years wasted while secondaries repeat work already covered and surprised staff when children achieve almost full marks on tests including curriculum areas not yet covered at secondary.

mrz Fri 06-Feb-15 17:55:34

Of course there are many social reasons too - boys (young men) don't want to study because it's "not cool" and of course both sexes find each other and the related distractions

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