Plus ça change… plus c’est la même chose

The French phrase seems entirely fitting when talking about tackling ‘assessment without levels’. Increasingly it has become clear that having seen levels clearly rejected by experts like Tim Oates and even the DfE themselves, most schools have found themselves re-creating a system in its image. And so it was that I set out to survey a not-entirely-scientific group of twitter users about their tracking systems.

In fact, I was disappointed to be pleasantly surprised by the results of my little poll. Firstly, the easy bit – what tracking programs are schools using? Obviously, on a relatively small sample (325) taken from a poll on Twitter, this isn’t entirely representative, but may be indicative:

TrackersIt’s clear that there are some very popular products, but interesting to see that 6% of responding schools had designed their own system, and over 10% had no system at all. It isn’t clear, of course, whether this 10% have made a decision not to buy something in, or simply haven’t decided which other product to purchase yet.

Removing those who had indicated that they had no tracking system, I then looked with interest at the progress measures used. My fear has been that most schools would have replaced the old system of 1½ sub-level / 3 APS points a year with something very similar. It was for that reason I was so pleasantly surprised that the most popular response from the survey was that systems required no set measure of steps each year. However, those are closely followed by the 3- and 6-step models:


In fact, when I looked more closely, it soon became clear that steps have remainder the dominant model, and the familiar ‘one step per term/half-term’ approach remains the most popular. In fact, this approach accounts for almost half of those who gave an answer, with steps models making up around 2/3 of responses altogether:


In many ways I was reassured by the 1/3 of responses that indicated that there were not a fixed number of steps expected each year. Of course, this may mask systems where people hadn’t realised that would become a factor, but interestingly just in asking I also attracted attention from users and producers of tracking systems who both explained that while systems allowed it, they did not compel it. Indeed, some of the “none” responses indicated that although the system had it as an option, their school had chosen not to use it.

So perhaps we’re seeing the start of a change? The Classroom Monitor twitter feed offered a glimmer of hope:

[tweet 603139342882713600 hide_thread=’true’ align=’center’]

It seems that – as is inevitably the case – providers initially created products that matched schools’ desires for something familiar. But perhaps, now, there will be an opportunity to wean schools off such approaches? Perhaps.

But in the meantime, it seems that a lot of schools have replaced a system of points of levels with something that looks alarmingly familiar.

As I’ve said before: to my mind, the Assessment Commission cannot report soon enough. Let’s hope it puts to bed some of the myths that make schools feel compelled to adopt such systems.

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5 thoughts on “Plus ça change… plus c’est la même chose

  1. teachwell 26 May 2015 at 8:30 pm Reply

    When is it supposed to report? I keep looking out for it!

  2. hayleyearl 26 May 2015 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Reassuring to see that we are not alone in not having any set number of expected steps. It’s a scary prospect, especially with the dreaded O-word expected next year, but working out what progress to expect cannot be done overnight. Jamie Pembroke and I talked about looking at progress pathways, seeing if any patterns begin to form in the progress children make, but this is going to be a slow and drawn out procedure. In the meantime, I have reassured our SLT that I can defend our lack of progress measure in favour of showing the individual progress children are making – I hope this proves to be a right decision.

  3. julietgreen 26 May 2015 at 11:42 pm Reply

    I haven’t managed to do the same with the SLT in my school and I’m very concerned about how we’re converting numbers of objectives into % in order to show ‘progress’. I was hoping we were going to develop a descriptive system but I confess I miss the tracking element of the levels as flawed as they were. I don’t like the all or nothing aspect of the new system. It’s a 1 or a 0 for the year objectives and I need to be able to show the difference between those who are more 0.001, and those who are closer to 0.999.

  4. […] read Michael Tidd’s blog with interest. Following an informal survey amongst fellow Twitter users Michael reported his […]

  5. […] in May I carried out a straw poll via Twitter asking people about their use of tracking software in […]

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