The Angmering School is a large rural comprehensive school in the village of Angmering, West Sussex. Assessment without Levels has been an opportunity to take the positive points from the levelling system and place them within a framework which is more workable for both staff and students. The school decided to take on board the mastery model which was disseminated by Durrington High School having baseline thresholds assigned to each student on entry in year 7 and then use these to assess progress throughout key stage 3 as below expected, at expected or above expected progress. Baseline data is not shared with students or parents although the students are aware of their progress at each assessment point.
The 2014 National Curriculum and a change of teaching staff within the department have been a catalyst to rethink our key stage three provision. This was partly to allow for a more streamlined and robust assessment strategy which enabled students to prepare, from day one in year 7, for the skills and baseline knowledge needed for the GCSE examinations. The new curriculum and assessment system were introduced simultaneously for years 7, 8 and 9.
Each department at Angmering was given a certain amount of autonomy on how to create the assessment ladders that would then determine the progress that the students were making. The Geography department built on the positive relationships with our feeder primary schools and used meetings with geography co-ordinators to share work on minimum expected skills for each student at Angmering. We used this as a baseline to ensure that there was not a dip in year 7 and that the minimum expected skills were then built upon throughout years 7, 8 and 9. This, coupled with our focus on content and skills for GCSE, allowed us to build an assessment framework which ensured progress throughout every year.
Our assessment strategy has two foci – skills and knowledge. The skills progress is assessed throughout both lesson tasks and through assessments. The knowledge is tested primarily in the assessments within each unit of work. Students keep their work in both an exercise book and an assessment folder which they then add to throughout key stage 3 thus enabling, by the end of year a comprehensive and detailed assessment of progress.
The assessment of skills is outlined within each scheme of work which highlights the elements that are being taught and practised in lessons. Students are encouraged to refer back to these in the lesson and in DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) lessons regularly throughout the term. The assessment of skills comes both from self assessment and from teacher assessment. Students are encouraged to highlight the skills grid where they feel that they have completed a piece of work that has shown that they are able to demonstrate a skill at a particular threshold. Alongside this, teaching staff also refer to the skills grid (PDF) when marking books and highlight where thresholds have been met. At the end of the school year, students are encouraged to go through their exercise books and to cut out work that has demonstrated certain skills thresholds to then place and keep in their assessment folders.
The assessment of knowledge takes place within an identified piece of assessed work once a half term. These assessments incorporate a range of work including examination style tests; fieldwork based enquiries and extended writing tasks. Each of these assessments has a marking scheme which relates to the four thresholds which enables teachers to consistently mark work across the year. Throughout the course of the year, students complete six assessed tasks, all of which are kept centrally in their assessment folders. After each assessment, they are encouraged to look critically at their work and to set SMART targets for their next assessment and they are also encouraged to improve their work in DIRT time through the use of purple pens of progress.
This focuses on the ‘Planet Earth’ Year 9 scheme of work (PDF). This encompasses work on the structure of the earth, geology, weathering and plate tectonics and natural hazards. This scheme takes students on a journey through from the basic structure of the earth to how we see physical geography in our everyday lives through geology and then looking at the extreme elements of the hazardous world and, although varied in content, allowed for a wide range of lesson foci and styles to keep students engaged and developing their skills and knowledge throughout the topic.
The assessment for the geology section of work involved a fieldtrip to the graveyard of the local parish church in order to investigate weathering on gravestones (PDF). The skills within this assessment task are outlined on the generic skills grid. The specific knowledge and more detailed application of the skills used within this work were assessed on a mark scheme.
The key skills from our progression grid relates to identifying, planning and carrying out independent enquiry, using a wide range of primary and secondary evidence, analysing evidence and drawing conclusions and completing fieldwork independently. This particular assessment allows students opportunities to work towards elements of the third strand of the GA assessment and progression framework by age 14 relating to competence in geographical enquiry and the application of skills in observing, collecting, analysing, evaluating and communicating geographical information. There are also elements of the ‘excellence’ criteria, such as independent working, which are mentioned within the by age 16 benchmarks. There are also parts of the second strand of the GA framework within the work, particularly focusing on making connections between different geographical phenomena, where students are putting their theoretical knowledge of different types of geology into a practical context (PDF).
Here are exemplar pieces of work from year 9 students on geology following on from the graveyard fieldtrip to investigate weathering. These exemplify the full spectrum of assessment thresholds (PDF) (Excellence, Secure, Developing, Foundation). Elements of progress have been identified.
Martyn Simmonds, Director of Humanities at Durrington High School reflects on The Angmering School’s approach to assessment (PDF).
‘…a key strength of this approach is that it has its foundation in key stage 2 and its end goal in key stage 4. As a result, the assessment at key stage 3 clearly links to both phases, allowing students to maintain progress from primary school, but also be prepared for GCSE. Sharing the success criteria for each threshold descriptor allows students to see how they achieve and what to do to progress between each phase and subsequently allows for progress to be made. In addition, a rigorous review process has been developed within the assessment model, which is led by teachers and students. This process allows the assessment thresholds and skills thresholds to be kept ‘live’ as well as allowing students to reflect upon their own skill sets.’