Assessment without levels – the process

I’m writing this blog after day 3 of working on our assessment without levels structure. I am hoping that this blog post might provide some useful points for anyone who is to sit down and do this but I appreciate our assessment approach is slightly unique in comparison to what I have seen from other schools. This isn’t a bad thing – as an academy we have a greater amount of freedom and flexibility in our approach – it’s just a heads up that some of this might not work for you and your school.

In designing a new curriculum for KS3 and a new assessment model, the first thing we have to ensure is that students are ‘GCSE ready.’ Therefore, our first port of call are the AOs. I am teaching with Edexcel so the AOs for Language and Literature are below (please note the AOs are exactly the same for all exam boards):



I, therefore, tried to establish the commonality between the AOs for the two different specs (including A level) and, from this, created our own 6 Assessment Objectives that would carry across all 7 years.  It was important to me that we had a cohesive approach and that our students in KS3 had the same assessment objectives as taught in KS4 to ensure confidence with the skill set by the time they arrived in year 10.

AO1: The identification and interpretation of explicit and implicit information and ideas
AO2: The construction of meaning and effects using language, structure and form
AO3a: Comparison of ideas, perspectives and texts
AO3b: The significance of context
AO4: A personal and critical response
AO5: Form, purpose and audience
AO5b: Structure and organisation
AO6: Sentence structure and punctuation and vocabulary and spelling

Once this had been established, I started to look at the new specimen assessment materials to see how these AOs were going to be assessed.  You can find these easily on your exam boards webpage.  Exploring the criteria in Band 4 (year 11) and then Band 3 (year 10) (appropriate for our school context), I placed the assessment criteria / descriptors next to the relevant AOs.  I did the same for A level and then used the APP grids for KS3 focusing on old level 6a criteria for year 9 (again, appropriate for our school context) and worked backwards.  This was an interesting exercise as I was clearly able to see the progression and development of a skill over key stages.  I noted, interestingly, that the descriptors at A level seemed more simplistic in comparison to those at GCSE although we know inherently that they aren’t.  Once this was done, I focused in on the progression of a skill and edited the wording (without messing with the assessment criteria at GCSE) to ensure that the progression of the skill over key stages would be clear for staff to see.  I re-edited this after feedback from Phil Stock to remove fluffy terms such as ‘some’ which are subjective and open to interpretation so I tried to be as specific and focused as I could. More information about this can be found here at Daisy Christodoulou’s fantastic blog which Phil sent me over:


I then cross-referenced the skills against the new National Curriculum documentation ensuring coverage (although as an academy we don’t have to follow this strictly).  The NC documents can be found here:

Once I had done this, I wanted to see what my yearly objectives looked like.  Therefore, I transferred information over from the progression grids to create yearly objective banks.  An example of which is below.


The next task was to map these yearly objectives to the long term plans at KS3 to ensure appropriate coverage.  An example of this is below:


And there we have it.  Please find all the documents referred to (progression maps, yearly objectives and long term plans) here:

What else do I need to do?

  • Develop a strand for spoken language
  • Create a reading for pleasure strand which will be developed in our library lessons
  • Construct the assessments to ensure complete focus on yearly objectives
  • Create assessment sheets for students to ensure clarity with regard to yearly objectives / objectives for each unit
  • Tracking sheets for staff – how will we track students’ attainment against objectives

NB. Our school is not going for the excellence, secure, developing etc approach.  All students will be expected to meet the yearly objectives with extension and support work going on behind the scenes.  We will simply be reporting to parents whether students have met an objective or not stipulating that if they do meet objectives year on year at KS3, they will be GCSE ready.

We will also have a whole school numerical grading system based upon the objectives students have met / not met.  My next step is to develop this for English.


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