At St Katharine’s, we began to develop our rationale for assessment in early 2015 and have continued to reflect on it, communicate with parents about our progress and ensure that our focus remains on the things that will make a difference to children’s learning. Our assessment rationale is a working, fluid document, as we will continually be seeking to develop and improve our strategies and how we share learning with parents.

Our curriculum is planned around what we call ‘The Famous Five of Powerful Learning’. The following chart shows how this framework supports our thinking for planning and assessing during learning. The chart below includes key aspects of formative assessment that were highlighted as having high influences on learning in Hattie’s meta-analyses (2009) in ‘Visible Learning’.

The Famous Five of Powerful Learning

Famous Five

During planning

During learning

1.  Clarity about what success is

How will the children know what very good/outstanding is?

Clear learning intentions

Success criteria in mind

High quality is explained, explored and expected

Reflecting on learning

What are they working to?

Clear learning intention

Co-constructed success criteria (signs of success – SOS)

Children and teachers all know what is expected and when successful – how are the children attaining these criteria?

Deliberate attention to LI/SOS

Feedback given and sought

Know where to go next based on feedback

2.  A sense of significance







During lessons

Throughout projects

Children understand the learning culture and can demonstrate powerful learning attributes

Talking about learning

Formative feedback and evaluation

3.  A sense of challenge

Are there high expectations?

Pitch, appropriate challenge


No limits approach



Teacher constantly seeks feedback from the children as to the success of his/her teaching

Choice of challenges

Are the challenging goals met?

Growth mindset

 ‘…yet’ language

Next steps

4.  Options and choice

Will they have the opportunity to make good informed choices?

Have different options to select

How many opportunities and different types of practice will there be?

Choice of tasks and challenges

Multiple opportunities for practice


Talk partners

5.  An end product and audience

Who is the audience? Class, parents, teachers, other year group?

What will they produce? A collection of work from throughout or an end piece? Performance? Display? Get a mix of types across the year.


Sharing learning with parents, peers, other age groups, teachers, community

Self and peer evaluation and reflection




 Formative assessment = better teaching and learning = powerful learning

Big questions we have considered and some of our thoughts and discussion points:

How can we ensure each child makes really good progress and achieves well?

  • Learning intentions remain within expected standard for year group and tasks adapted to support and challenge
  • Continue to develop staff understanding of age-related expectations (ARE)
  • Quality formative assessment strategies used in the classroom – also visible in books
  • Children have time to act on feedback whether within lessons or ongoing
  • Lessons provide challenge/support for all children

How will we know?

  • Lessons and children’s books will show visible learning
  • Books will show progression over time and within lessons
  • Speaking to children
  • Summative assessments will show this
  • Progress meetings
  • Monitoring

What evidence will we have (within year, from year to year)?

  • Books
  • Formative assessments
  • Progress meetings
  • Teacher tick sheets and/or notes
  • Teacher knowledge
  • Summative assessments at relevant checkpoints
  • Monitoring
  • SEN notes, plans and adult knowledge

How will we share it with parents (and others)? (see “Sharing Learning With Parents/Carers Leaflet”)

  • Parents Evenings – two per year (October and February)
  • Next step targets handed out at both parents evenings
  • End of year expectations shared at start of year
  • Reports at end of year stating whether they achieved the end of year standards

Moving on from levels:


  • Formative assessment
  • Challenging lessons
  • Good quality feedback
  • Time to act on feedback

What we keep track of

  • Reading, Writing, Maths – pupil progress meetings and school data records
  • Spelling and grammar – teacher notes
  • Science and RE – developing assessment tasks
  • Foundation subjects – year group statements/expectations linked to reports to parents

Be selective about what gets assessed

  • Using age-related expectation statements and clarity of what expectations look like
  • Using interim criteria where relevant (end of key stages)

What are the learning progressions – how are the children progressing?

  • Working towards expected level
  • Working at expected level
  • Working at greater depth within expected level
  • Books to show progress for individual children along with discussions with teachers

Establish checkpoints: for who and why? eg reporting to parents

  • Checkpoint 1 – October (ready for first parents evening – next steps), SLT, governors
  • Checkpoint 2 – February – (ready for second parents evening – next steps), SLT, governors
  • Checkpoint 3 - May/June – reporting to LA/DfE/parents/reports/new teachers

Make sure it supports learning, not get in the way

  • Formative assessment supports learners on next steps – within lessons and ongoing
  • Teachers don’t spend time ticking boxes – effort should go into curriculum delivery, planning and knowing the children

Ensure parents are involved formatively in children’s learning

  • Conversations and parents evening
  • Book looks and home work


Extracts from the ‘Final report of the Commission on Assessment without Levels’, September 2015, DfE

The benefits of assessment without levels

Assessment without levels gives schools the opportunity to develop their own approaches to assessment that focus on teaching and learning and are tailored to the curriculum followed by the school.

Clarity for pupils, parents and carers

Without levels, schools can use their own assessment systems to support more informative and productive conversations with pupils and parents. They can ensure their approaches to assessment enable pupils to take more responsibility for their achievements by encouraging pupils to reflect on their own progress, understand what their strengths are and identify what they need to do to improve. Focusing assessment on the content of the school’s curriculum will allow for communications with parents and carers to provide a clearer sense of how to support their children to build and consolidate learning.

Support for pupils

By no longer grouping pupils according to levels, teachers can give more focus to providing pupils with feedback which clarifies those aspects of the curriculum where their knowledge and understanding is secure and those areas where there are gaps. Applying a range of formative assessment methods allows teachers to tailor their assessments to the underpinning knowledge and skills being taught, for example by supporting teaching with “effective question and answer” techniques. Removing the ‘label’ of levels can help to improve pupils’ mind-sets about their own ability. Differentiating teaching according to pupils’ levels meant some pupils did not have access to more challenging aspects of the curriculum. In reviewing their teaching and assessment strategies following the removal of levels, teachers can aim to ensure they use methods that allow all pupils access to the whole curriculum.

Mastery in assessment

The word mastery is increasingly appearing in assessment systems and in discussions about assessment. Unfortunately, it is used in a number of different ways and there is a risk of confusion if it is not clear which meaning is intended.

Many schools seem to have adopted the word ‘mastery’ to denote a high level of performance against curriculum expectations. ‘Mastery’ has also been associated with particular teaching approaches; for example with the recent promotion of Mathematics Mastery and the observation that this approach is characteristic of high-performing East Asian countries . Here, ‘mastery’ denotes a focus on achieving a deeper understanding of fewer topics, through problem-solving, questioning and encouraging deep mathematical thinking. Also sometimes associated with this ‘mastery’ approach is a belief that all children can achieve a high standard and that the purpose of assessment is not differentiation, but ensuring all children have grasped fundamental, necessary content.

‘Mastery learning’ is a specific approach in which learning is broken down into discrete units and presented in logical order. Pupils are required to demonstrate mastery of the learning from each unit before being allowed to move on to the next, with the assumption that all pupils will achieve this level of mastery if they are appropriately supported. Some may take longer and need more help, but all will get there in the end.

Assessment is built into this process. Following high-quality instruction, pupils undertake formative assessment that shows what they have learned well and what they still need to work on, and identifies specific ‘corrective’ activities to help them do this. After undertaking these corrective activities (or alternative enrichment or extension activities for those who have already achieved mastery), pupils retake a parallel assessment. A large amount of high-quality research has evaluated mastery learning and found consistent and positive impacts on learning (e.g. Kulik et al, 1990; Guskey, 2012).

The new national curriculum is premised on this kind of understanding of mastery, as something which every child can aspire to and every teacher should promote. It is about deep, secure learning for all, with extension of able students (more things on the same topic) rather than acceleration (rapidly moving on to new content). Levels were not consistent with this approach because they encouraged undue pace and progression onto more difficult work while pupils still had gaps in their knowledge or understanding. In developing new approaches to assessment, schools have the opportunity to make “mastery for all” a genuine goal.