Assessment Without Levels: Principles into Practice

Friday 11 November 2016
9.15am – 3.30pm
The Tomlinson Centre, Queensbridge Road, E8 3ND

Keynote speakers

Tim Oates – Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment
Dame Alison Peacock – Executive Headteacher, The Wroxham School
Stephen Turp – LA Programme Manager, FFT Aspire
Calvin Henry – Leadership and Management Advisor, Hackney Learning Trust (Chair)


Are your assessment systems fit for purpose?

In September 2015, schools were asked to design an assessment model which met the requirements of the new national curriculum and their wider school curriculum.

Leaders in Hackney and beyond have worked together to design effective models and to share best practice to ensure that the systems they put in place are robust, fit for purpose and have a positive impact on learning. This conference explored effective school-led systems for assessment and will support leaders to evaluate current practice and identify a way forward.

Attendees were given strategies to refine and enhance assessment systems so that their systems optimise the learning for every child.


Objectives and opportunities

  • Aligning assessment and pedagogic practice
  • Developing approaches to assessment that foster independence and motivations
  • Best practice features of good assessment systems
  • Sharing learning of developing assessment systems related to moderation and accurate assessment
  • Sustaining and enhancing assessment for learning
  • Reporting to parents


Who attended?

  • Academy Trusts and Federations
  • Headteachers
  • Deputy Headteachers
  • Assistant Headteachers
  • Local Authority personnel


8.30 – Registration, refreshments and networking

9.15Welcome – Anne Canning, Acting Group Director Children, Adults and Community Health, London Borough of Hackney

9.20 – Chair’s opening remarks – Calvin Henry, Leadership and Management Advisor,  Primary and Early Years, Hackney Learning Trust

9.30Breaking free of the gravitational pull of levels – Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

This presentation will cover some old ground – the evidence for no longer using National Curriculum Levels – but it also will engage with why some schools are finding it hard to move away from levels, and why some have re-invented them. Examining international evidence on on-going and summary assessment, the presentation will tie assessment practice strongly to pedagogic practice, as well as giving details of approaches which genuinely go ‘beyond Levels’.

10.00 – Q&A

10.10Delegates to be split into two rooms (primary and secondary delegates)

Assessment for Learning without Limits (for primary delegates only) – Dame Alison Peacock, Executive Headteacher, The Wroxham School

Dame Alison will explore an alternative approach to assessment and provide an opportunity to consider the positive impact of formative assessment as part of a pedagogical approach that fosters independence, engagement and intrinsic motivation to learn. The Wroxham School has worked for a number of years in a manner that has focused on high quality teaching and feedback, rather than on levelling and assessment driven by numerical measurement. Alison’s work is informed by ‘Learning without Limits’ research studies and extensive experience of curriculum development. She is working with The Prince’s Teaching Institute to build high expectations of teachers’ own subject knowledge to inform irresistible learning opportunities for all children.

A sigh of relief – not yet! (for secondary delegates only) – Stephen Turp, LA Programme Manager, FFT Aspire

2016 only sees the start of what will be one of the most turbulent periods in secondary education that most of us have lived through. The introduction of Progress 8, EBacc and GCSE revised points is only the start of an era that history will call the ‘Years of predicable unpredictability’. The phasing in of new GCSEs and the further revision of points will send national figures into a spin. Forecasting trends and school comparisons will become, for a while, the stuff of legend.

10.50 – Q&A

11.00 – Tea/coffee break

11.20Workshop session 1
Please see workshops tab

12.50 – Lunch and networking

13.40 Workshop session 2
Please see workshops tab

15.10 – Reflection and Feedback

Each table will have a designated Hackney Learning Trust Leadership and Management Advisor to discuss issues your school is facing and identify key learning from the day.

15.30 – Closing remarks and close of conference

Booking workshops

Delegates will have the opportunity to book on to two workshops of their choice. One for the 11.20am session and one for the 13.40pm session. All workshops will be repeated (except workshops 1 and 5, which will be run only in the morning and workshop 4, which will will run only in the afternoon). Delegates wishing to attend workshop 6 must have an active Aspire login.

Workshop 1: Bringing ‘Learning without Limits’ principles to life
Run by Dame Alison Peacock, Executive Headteacher, The Wroxham School

This workshop will provide an opportunity to consider the positive impact of formative assessment as part of a pedagogical approach that fosters independence, engagement and intrinsic motivation to learn.

  • Delegates will develop practical approaches to formative assessment which will support their judgements in the context of the new curriculum
  • Ideas and effective strategies will help delegates meet the challenge of assessment and learning in their year groups
  • See how learning without limits can positively impact upon children’s attainment, achievement, disposition and desire to learn
  • Delegates will recognise the significance of formative assessment and frame their pedagogic practice in responsive ways.

Workshop 2: The Fundamentals Approach to primary assessment
Run by Lucy Blewett, Head of Teaching Schools, Primary Advantage

This workshop will look at the journey taken by a group of schools across the borough to design and implement a model for assessment. The Fundamentals model is in line with the Assessment Commission report on assessment without levels and allows schools to show recordable measures of progress and attainment for all learners. It is based on the premise of ‘no learning child left behind’ and ensures all teachers, parents and children are clear about each children’s strengths and areas for development.

Participants will explore the aims and principles of the model, investigate how a secure-fit, binary approach has helped to enhance assessment practices and consider how this model is used to assess and track learning across KS1 and KS2. Participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the range of formative and summative assessment processes in place across the schools
  • Investigate a model which moves away from emerging, developing, secure
  • Explore the newly commissioned online assessment tool that supports the in-depth tracking of groups and cohorts
  • Become a pilot school for the roll out of The Fundamentals

Workshop 3: Moderation: a year-long approach for primary schools
The session will outline guidance for senior leaders in establishing an on-going approach to moderation linked to assessment. This professional dialogue will directly impact on planning, progress and professional development of teachers.

This is based on learning from best practice in Hackney schools and Hackney Learning Trust during the 2015–16 academic year.

In this challenging time for schools with significant changes to assessment, moderation is an essential tool for senior leaders to ensure their assessment systems are robust. The following areas will be explored:

  •  A moderation timeline across the year
  • Planning opportunities for effective assessment in reading, writing and maths
  • Using a variety of sources of evidence

Workshop 4: Establishing consistency in judgements of standards and progress for effective self evaluation
Run by Steven Jones, Assistant Vice-Principal, Mossbourne Community Academy

Effective self-evaluation requires sound judgements based on the reliable measurement of progress through robust assessment. How can a consistent approach be achieved across all subjects covering years 7–13?

Issues to be discussed:

  • Effective scrutiny of A-level and GCSE results
  • Establishing typicality of judgements of the quality of teaching, learning and progress
  • Judging progress over time
  • Effective target setting
  • Managing the SIP-SEF process

Workshop 5: Secondary Assessment Systems
Run by Hannah Turbet, Deputy Headteacher, Curriculum and Assessment, Haggerston School

This workshop will provide an opportunity to hear about one school’s development and implementation of an assessment without levels system, as well as an opportunity to share and evaluate the work completed in delegates’ schools. Hannah’s approach to data is that it should be useful and useable for all stakeholders, and Haggerston’s system for assessment without levels follows this approach. The school’s work has previously been shared across the borough and other schools in partnership with Hackney Learning Trust. The workshop shop will:

  • Share the assessment without levels system that has been developed at Haggerston School with a focus on the principles underpinning the system
  • Share the implementation process, and then reflect on areas of success and areas for further development from the school’s perspective
  • Provide delegates with the opportunity to share and discuss the approach used in their own schools

Workshop 6: Developing effective practice for self-evaluation and target setting
Run by Stephen Turp, LA Programme Manager, FFT Aspire

This is to be a hands on session so attendees must bring with them a laptop and have access to their own school’s Aspire account. During this hands-on session delegates will:

  • Be able to use the FFT Aspire self-evaluation suite of reports to support their self-evaluation process and action plan
  • Analyse Pupil Premium attainment and progress gaps
  • Interpret performance data to review provision for vulnerable groups including pupils with special educational needs, English as an additional language, mobile pupils and those claiming free school meals
  • Consider best practice in setting pupil targets to maximise performance
  • Share benchmarks and pupil target information effectively with staff, pupils and parents
  • Use the new Student Explorer to facilitate staff development in improving provision for individual pupils
Tim Oates CBE
Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

Tim Oates joined Cambridge Assessment in May 2006 to spearhead the rapidly growing Assessment Research and Development division. He was previously at the Qualifications and Curriculum Agency, where he had been Head of Research and Statistics for most of the last decade.

Work included advising on a pan-European 8-level qualifications framework. He has advised the UK Government for many years on both practical matters and assessment policy.

He started his career as a research officer at the University of Surrey. He moved to the FE Staff College in 1987 where he helped run the Work-Based Learning project. London University’s Institute of Education then appointed him as NCVQ Research Fellow. In 1993 he joined one of the QCA’s predecessor bodies, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, as Head of GNVQ Research and Development. Promotion to Director of Research followed two years later.

Tim was awarded CBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours for services to education.

Dame Alison Peacock
Executive Headteacher, The Wroxham School

Professor Dame Alison Peacock DL, DLitt, MEd, BA, is author of ‘Assessment for Learning without Limits’ (2016) and co-author of ‘Creating Learning without Limits’ (2012). Research into Learning without Limits explores an alternative improvement agenda; identifying key dispositions for school leadership where every child and adult is valued and where no one is labelled by so-called ‘ability’. Alison has worked in partnership with educational researchers to document her innovative work as a teacher and creative school leader.

Throughout her career, Alison has sought to teach and lead in a manner that encourages the voice of the child, building a trusting environment for dialogue that enriches understanding and builds communities of lifelong learning.

Stephen Turp
LA Programme Manager, 
FFT Aspire

Stephen joined FFT Education as its LA Programme Manager in 2015, where he works closely with local authorities, sharing good practice and advising how FFT Aspire can support local authorities in their role as Champions for Children and Young People.

Stephen is responsible for setting up and coordinating focus groups with local local authorities in various topics including how FFT’s Aspire Student Explorer tool can be used by school leaders and LA school improvement teams to inform early interventions and meet the needs of LAs and schools. Stephen also plans to set up focus groups on FFT Aspire’s Collaborate and the new Virtual School facility.

Stephen plans to develop a network of LA Aspire ambassadors, championing the functionality of the system. Investigating the training needs of local authorities and looking at the best methods of delivery also falls under Stephen’s remit at FFT Education.

Prior to joining FFT Education, Stephen worked for Suffolk County Council, as its Adviser for Data and Assessment.

Here’s what our attendees thought about the conference:

“Wish I had attended this before September as it has really helped form the details of my own assessment system and would have improved this years’ experience so far for teachers and leadership teams.”

“Thank you! An excellent thought provoking and inspiring day. It will be the springboard to change.”

“A useful event that highlighted key themes all schools are having to address.”

“Thank you – as a delegate from West Sussex, it was worth the journey.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed Dame Alison Peacock’s workshop and presentation. A very inspirational speaker.”

“Thank you. The day was very well organised, interesting and useful.”

“A great day – many thanks.”