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Information for Parents/Carers about Assessment Without Levels

St Bernard’s Primary School 

 Band 1      Band 2       Band 3        Band 4        Band 5         Band 6

The Government has made a huge change in the way that children in schools are to be assessed. This is to tie in with the National Curriculum that came into schools and is statutory in all classes from September 2015. This is a new way of thinking for schools, and assessment will look very different to how it has done for the past 20 years. The aim of this guide is to hopefully give you some clear information about all the changes that are happening in Education across the country, and what that means for the children here at St Bernard’s Primary School. Before we even think about assessment we need to be clear on what changes the new curriculum has brought to subjects that are traditionally assessed.

Curriculum 2014

The main changes to the key core subjects are highlighted below.

English - The new programme of study for English is knowledge-based; this means its focus is on knowing facts, developing skills and understanding. It is also characterised by an increased emphasis on the technical aspects of language with less emphasis on the creative aspects. English is set out year by year in Key Stage 1 and two-yearly in Key Stage 2. Appendices give specific content to be covered in the areas of spelling and vocabulary, grammar and punctuation. These are set out yearly across both key stages.

Mathematics - The main areas in the new programme of study for mathematics are called domains. These are number, measurement, geometry, statistics, ratio and proportion and algebra. The way that the curriculum is organised varies across the primary age range – every year group has a unique combination of domains and subdomains. There is no longer a separate strand of objectives related to using and applying mathematics. Instead, there are problem-solving objectives within the other areas of study. Most of the changes to the mathematics curriculum involve content being brought down to earlier years, (detailed year group breakdowns of these programmes of study can be found on the School’s website).

The End of Curriculum Levels

So why are levels disappearing?

The DfE want to avoid what has been termed ‘The level Race’ where children have moved through the old National Curriculum levels quickly to achieve higher attainment. The old National Curriculum was sub-divided into levels, but these were not linked to their national curriculum year group.

 For example, a child in Year 4 could be a Level 3 or even a level 5. Children were achieving Level 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2, but the DfE thought that a significant number were able to achieve a Level 5 or 6 in a test—but were not secure at that level.

The feeling from the DfE was that the old national curriculum and the levels system failed to adequately ensure that children had a breadth and depth of knowledge at each national curriculum level.

Assessing Without Levels

The DfE announced last year that there would no longer be National Curriculum levels and that schools would have to set up their own way of assessing pupils. We have spent time researching various different methods and software for assessing pupils. We will be using ‘Target Tracker’ to aid the monitoring and reporting for all our children, it uses 3 categories in line with National reporting as follows:

 DfE Descriptor

Target Tracker




Yet to be secure in the end of year expectations


Working within

Secure in the majority of the end of year expectations



Secure in almost all / all the end of year expectations and is able to use and apply their knowledge and skills confidently.

(The statements are then sub-divided further to reflect the depth and breadth of understanding in each Band – beginning plus, working within plus, secure plus – totalling a six-step system. )


Beginning +


Within +


Secure +

Under the old levels system children who were exceeding might have moved into the next level. The DfE now want children who are in the exceeding bracket to add more depth and breadth to their knowledge, and to have more opportunities to develop their using and applying skills. They are calling this phase of learning Mastery and Depth. Only exceptional children will move into working towards the end of year expectations from the year above. Similarly, children who are unlikely to be emerging at the end of the year may work towards the expectations from the year below.

Any children who are exceeding and have already secured their depth and breadth of knowledge will be able to work towards the end of year expectations from the year above. St Bernard’s Primary School will ensure the Mastery and Depth phase of learning is applied for all children.  Any child likely to be ‘Secure’ at the end of the year may work towards the expectations from the year above.  Similarly any child that is not likely to be ‘Beginning’ at the end of the year may work towards the expectations from the year below. 

So how will this look at the end of each Key Stage? 

Key Stage 1




End of Year 1

Band 1

Secure / Secure plus

End of Year 2

Band 2

Secure / Secure plus

Higher ability children may be ‘Beginning’ Band 3 at the end of key stage 1.

Key Stage 2




End of Year 3

Band 3

Secure / Secure plus

End of Year 4

Band 4

Secure / Secure plus

End of Year 5

Band 5

Secure / Secure plus

End of Year 6

Band 6

Secure / Secure plus

Similar to Year 2 there will be some children who may be Year 6 exceeding and some children who are Year 6 beginning. There may also be a small number of children who are still working at a lower level e.g. Year 4/5 beginning/working within/secure.

Assessing Without Levels

The biggest difference is how we will talk to you about how your child is progressing during the year. With the old National Curriculum levels, each year children were given a target for the end of the year, and during the year we would tell you what National Curriculum level your child was at.

For Example: A child could finish Year 3 with a level 3a, and in Year 4 would have a target of a 4b for the end of the year. At Parent’s Evenings throughout the year you may be told that they have moved to a 4c and then on to a 4b.

We could use the levels system this way because there was no correlation between a level and a child’s year group, and this can be seen in the way that in a Year 6 class there could be a range of levels, from level 2 to a level 6. However, the new National Curriculum sets out expectations for each year group and children will be assessed against those every year, so a child in Year 4 will always be judged in the first instance against the expectations for the end of Year 4.

So how will the process in school work?  In each autumn term, by October/November, the teachers will have had an opportunity to assess how the children are working against the band descriptors.  This will provide a baseline judgement of attainment.  They will then give a forecast as to where they think a child will be by the end of the Year. So, for example, children in Year 3 could be given a forecast of 3 Beginning, 3 Working Within, 3 Secure or another level if the child is exceeding or below expectations.

Throughout the year, when we have conversations with you about your child’s progress you will be told whether your child is on track to meet their end of year target. It may well be that they are above or below where they need to be, in which case their end of year target may be adjusted.

We hope that you find this guide useful to help you understand why the DfE has changed assessment and what St Bernard’s is doing about it.

 If you have any queries whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me at school.

Best wishes,

Meg Wilson