There are those who are gleeful to be rid of levels. Mostly secondary school teachers who know their subjects intimately, and who increasingly find their focus is on GCSE grades. It does, after all, seem daft to have two different systems of assessment in one school. I could probably have supported the abandonment of levels in secondary schools, if only because I think most teachers don’t need them particularly.
But – as the DfE is slowly beginning to realise, hopefully – primary schools have teachers in them too. Removing levels from primary schools leaves us with nothing. We don’t have GCSE grades to work towards (not that we’d want to) and we don’t want to spend 7 years tracking towards an incomprehensible scaled score. Levels may not have been perfect, but they were something.
That said, what really worries me is something else: hurried decision-making.
As schools scratch around looking for the next big thing in assessment, I have no doubts that private publishers are already beavering away at producing something. Now, I reckon I could come up with a system I could work with in a couple of days, that would be at least as useful, and a darn site more manageable than the current levels system. But it wouldn’t sell.
The real worry we face is that each company trying to sell its wares will be competing to be the scheme that looks the best. They will be filled with promises about progress, tracking, accountability and excellence. And the problem is that what looks really good on paper (and some schools will probably buy into schemes before they’re even completed) is often the same thing that becomes entirely unmanageable and unhelpful in practice. By which time it’s too late.
Each company will gladly produce folder after folder. Doubtless many of them will come with discs of software for analysis, and printable graphs, and iPad apps and the like. The impression will be that teachers will just casually tap a few buttons and magically all will be done. Except, in reality those simple ‘tap-a-button’ schemes soon become tap-a-thousand-buttons screens.
Think APP and then some.
No, scrapping levels is a disaster, having no scheme is horrendous, but the real worry is what might come after it – not least because too many of the people buying into the schemes will not be the same people who are expected to use them!