Yesterday I was at a meeting of local secondary schools with one of Capita’s consultants, Matt Sharman. Secondary schools were keen to discuss Capita’s approach to ‘assessment without levels’ and Capita are always keen to talk to schools. The focus of the meeting was an update on the new KS3 Programme of Study Marksheets for Secondary Schools.
There was welcome confirmation that the KS3 version of the programme of study marksheets will be released a couple of weeks after the main Summer release – so this should mean that data managers will have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new system and get the marksheets set up before the start of the new academic year.
The issues raised by the group in the discussion were interesting. The issues were also representative of the comments I hear when I visit other secondary (and primary) schools, so I want to share them here:
- The majority of schools hadn’t made any firm plans to move away from levels. Indeed, many secondary schools are actively deciding to stick with levels for the forseeable future. This, despite their being no natural ‘fit’ between levels and the new curriculum.
- Currently, the PoS marksheets are not configurable. So schools have to accept the emerging-developing-secure-mastered schema that Capita have adopted. For some schools this is very similar to the schema in place already and will not be a barrier to adoption of the system. But for other schools, reluctant to change, this could be a major reason not to move to Capita’s system.
- Likewise, the lack of configurability means that schools have no control over the columns that currently represent every statement from the national curriculum. The sheer number of columns can be off-putting for staff, although this can be mitigated by marking some columns as ‘school expectations’. Data managers and SIMS support staff shouldn’t assume that classroom teachers are already recording data to this level of detail elsewhere – for many staff recording formative assessments at this levels of detail could represent a big extra workload.
- At KS3 there are no nationally-agreed ‘end of year expectations’. At KS1 and KS2 these ‘end of year expectations’ allow staff to record summative assessments as Y6 Secure or Y4 Emerging. But Capita’s system still requires schools to enter summative assessments as Y8 Mastered or Y9 Emerging. Schools will have to decide their own expectations for the end of each KS3 year group.
- There was broad consensus within yesterday’s meeting that all subject teachers needed access to KS2 results and to latest results in English and Maths. The advice to Capita was that teachers would benefit from read-only access to pupil results in other subjects.
On balance the feedback was positive, and there was an acknowledgement that Capita were moving the discussion forward. Ultimately, secondary schools who want to move away from levels and who want to adopt a 4-grade structure along the lines of emerging-developing-secure-mastered will want to investigate the new system a soon as it becomes available. Many will want to run a pilot with a selection of subjects in the Autumn term. Meanwhile Capita will continue to develop the system, increasing its flexibility as they listen to schools. Even if a minority of secondaries adopt the new approach, with SIMS in 22,000 schools across England and Wales, that’s still a huge number of schools.