Life After Marbles

We are soon to be plunged into a world of ‘Life without Levels’ where all drinks will slide off the table and students will finally have to give up playing marbles.

I mentioned to my Year 9 class on Monday, that their year might be the last to use Levels and they were shocked.

“How will we know how we are doing?” they demanded. I explained that they would only know how they could get better instead and have a target not a grade. They felt this was ridiculous.

“How is that any different to the targets in our books now?” they asked. (Their use of Blooms was disarming)

They want to know how good their work is.

We all do.

The ongoing Ofsted shambles is as much a reflection of this as the student’s indignation at losing levels. We like to be graded and we like to know what we are being graded on. People don’t like the goalposts changing – look at how long changing the actual goalposts took FIFA and that was just adding a sensor!

Why will the students not find out how they have done? Is it not as important as what we will do next? Teachers suggest that when you give a grade on a piece of work then students will only look at that grade. An easy concept to find resonance with most of us but it’s a simple fix really – just give feedback on work and reflect on it in class before you re-mark. Don’t give a grade until all targets have been applied.

Instead, to combat students looking at grades not feedback, the government is insisting that we stop assessing students with levels and stop giving grades at all.

It feels like the government are trying to implement effective assessment for learning and good teaching by force when it is something that every school either ensures or aspires towards. Help schools improve, don’t hinder the ones already doing well.

The government don’t need to paint over the road signs, throwing the baby away with the bath water to stop poor teaching. They just need to have a fit for purpose system for accountability. An inspection system that identifies where teacher weaknesses are and then is responsible for their ongoing CPD would be something sensible to make sure that we are all providing the best education we can.

It seems that when it comes to levels we have  lost our marbles. I feel that the best thing to do would be to let us keep a nationally standardised set of levels and let us tell the kids how well they are doing. As we cannot it’s time to make a cup holder for my coffee to keep it level and to devise a strategy to really assess what skills the students can use (and another word for levels)


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