Following the announcement of the removal of levels, we began to assess whether our assessment system at the time was fit for purpose. We tried to adapt our system as best we could for the new curriculum and assessment expectations, however we soon realised that to make a success of ‘life after levels’ we need to find a new system that was created specifically for this. Trying to shoehorn in our old approach was overly complicated, and detracted from focusing on pupil progress.
As a school, it was crucial that any new system was manageable for our staff. They had a lot to comprehend in a very short space of time - a new curriculum, a change of assessment and new expectations. The last thing I wanted to do was to put in place something that was going to give them hours and hours of work to reveal what they already knew about their children.
A new way forward
After deciding that we needed to introduce a new assessment system, we began to research a variety of approaches. There were so many systems that, after an hour of looking at them, we still did not understand! Assessment outcomes were opaque and not obvious - is a pupil on-track or not?
We focused on the winners of the DfE’s Assessment Innovation Competition 2014 and began to research Learning Ladders. After spending time finding out more from other schools and the Learning Ladders team, we began to picture how the resource would work across the school and how teachers could implement it in the classroom. I was drawn to it as it was workable system, and as a teacher I could see who is achieving, who isn’t and what I needed to do next.
Once we decided to move forward with Learning Ladders we spent a lot of time going through the system and our approach to assessment with all our staff. Initially, and as we expected, the first term needed time to set the system up as we wanted it and embed our approach across the school. The more our teachers began to use Learning Ladders during this term, the easier it became and the more reliable our assessment data became.
The Benefits of Learning Ladders
One of the huge benefits to Learning Ladders is that it’s manageable. Using the Gap Analysis tool we know that teaching and learning is going to continue to improve over the next few years. The more our teachers use the system, the better the information we see. The picture presented allows our teachers to directly use this information to support each individual pupil, regardless of their prior attainment.
We are able to have pupil-level conversations, and the assessment information is presented so that we can identify those who may have had a challenging term. We are able to ask questions about our pupils’ progress and find the answers to move forward.
In January 2016 we had an Ofsted inspection, and they loved Learning Ladders! They liked the way that we could focus on pupil progress and identify the next steps for children and groups. It was a system they could understand quickly. Our SLT and governors are also very happy with Learning Ladders, as our assessment information is transparent and clear to understand for our reporting needs.
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