Farewell to all that

Today the government have announced the demise of levels, which was not unexpected. Mr Gove’s letter to the expert panel is also not unexpected in its extravagant rhetoric and assertion which stands in for reasoned argument. It is unlikely that many will miss the bureacracy of levels and levelling, although in foundation subjects it was seldom taken, or applied, seriously. But I feel the rhetoric about raising standards sits uncertainly against the rhetoric of less prescription and confusion about assessment criteria. It will be interesting but I suspect foundation subjects will not be a major topic of debate, either in government or schools. However, I guess the requirement to publish a programme of study for all subjects does provide an opportunity for subject experts (associations) to provide good models and examples.

It will be intriguing to see what happens in secondary schools, which increasingly are becoming academies and so not bound by these changes. Will senior leaders now abandon the spreadsheets and six weekly measures of levels, which are used almost universally to monitor teaching – or at least to pretend to monitor pupil progress. Perhaps they will simply keep levelling, or perhaps they will invent other terms for the same practice. Whatever happens, I suspect it will be hard for senior leaders to abandon management by Excell, especially in schools which were no better than ‘satisfactory’.

In passing it is perhaps worth remembering that it was not the government, national curriculum or QCA which, in foundation subjects at least, turned simple and broad descriptions of what children should achieve at the end of a key stage into a rigid system of monitoring based upon vague criteria which was simply unable to bear the weight of assessment, monitoring and recording that was placed upon it. It was schools (or headteachers) – probably hoping to impress Ofsted.

PS to note my earlier post about levels click here.

About Dan

Senior Advisor, Art Inspector, Member of the Expert Advisory Group for Art, Consultant working with NSEAD, IOE, QCA, UCE, UOG. Currently lecturer at UCL working on a project in Kazakhstan to develop text books for a new art curriculum.
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