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No more levels: changes to primary school grading - what does it all mean?

The levels system we've become familiar with for test results and tracking students' progress is being replaced - find out what this means for your child's school reports

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In the past, schools would have kept you informed about your child's academic progress using levels. In Key Stage 1, the teacher may have told you your child was working towards a level 2. In KS2, the teacher may have told you your child was capable of achieving a level 5 in English in the SATs national tests in Year 6.

The levels system has now been abolished for the grading of national tests. The government has also said schools should not use levels for their own student progress tracking systems (previously, schools would track your child's academic progress with the same levels system used for external tests).

Why are levels being removed?

The government was advised to scrap levels by an expert panel it appointed to review the national curriculum. The panel said the system of numbers and sub-levels was confusing and had little connection to what was being taught in classrooms. The government agreed and scrapped levels from the current school year.

What will replace them?

For national tests at primary school, there will be a numerical score instead of a level: 100 will represent the expected standard. Higher scores will indicate higher attainment and lower scores will indicate where pupils may be falling behind expectations. 

For internal tracking systems, the replacement of levels will be up to the schools themselves. Some schools may use letter grades, or numbers as with the old levels; others may opt for a different system altogether, using test scores or more descriptive statements about what has been learned. 

What do I need to ask my child's school?

If you're confused by the changes at your child's school, but you are not sure what you should be asking, these questions might be a good starting point.

  • Does the system enable a comparison of my child to others in the class and to how students are performing nationally? 
  • Is the system linked to age-based expectations of progress - ie what a child should know by, for example, the age of seven? 
  • How will I know if my child is falling behind, or if they are making particularly rapid progress? 
  • What support can I offer at home to help my child make progress?

Content provided by Michael Tidd who is deputy headteacher at Edgewood Primary School in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, an expert in improving curriculum and assessment, and a leading educational blogger.

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Last updated: about 3 years ago