Having had a year’s grace and planning opportunity for our “Life after Levels” strategy, it is now time to decide on and implement the new structure before the new academic year in September. We have spent recent “Department Development Time” focused on this task.
As our school embarks on progress checking with a more flexible and “home-grown” levelling system, I have been working within the philosophy department to support work devising a progress tracking strategy that fits for our new year 7 cohort and which they can adopt in September.
There is a planned phase out of the old levelling format whereby in September the new year 8 and 9 cohorts will run with the “old” (existing) criteria and year 7 with the new approach.
The hope is that we can begin to run this system through and that teaching these skills and expectations will aid each pupil’s smooth progress through key stage 3 and into key stage 4.
Teaching needs to include the natural development of skills – such as describing, interpreting, evaluation – and these skills really do need to be applicable and practised throughout the years.
This does seem a positive move forward, as arguably we currently have a detached set of pupil progress standards between key stage 3 and 4.
Hopefully marrying up GCSE specification skills with key stage 3 criteria will enable a smoother and clearer progression. Likewise, there is potentially a future benefit of extending these skills into A level progress reviews for our sixth form.
Our working model so far is driven largely by Bloom’s Taxonomy command words and skills. A set of Mastery Statements have been created to aid understanding and to explain how to attain each level.
This is possibly not hugely detached from the existing levelling system, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for our own familiarisation. However, this brings us in line with the national picture and hopefully improves the fluidity as pupils move through secondary school.
For example, below are just a taster of some of the skills and expectations that we have mapped out thus far.
Describe and identify (existing Level 3): make links between beliefs, stories and practices, identify the impacts of beliefs and practices on people’s lives.
Describe and understand (existing Level 4): comment on connections between questions, beliefs, values and practices.
Explain and understand significance (existing Level 5): recognise and explain the impact of beliefs and ultimate questions on individuals and communities.
Interpret and apply (existing Level 6): interpret the significance and impact of different forms of religious and spiritual expression.
Analyse and evaluate (existing Level 7): explain coherently some consequences and influences of religions and beliefs on individuals and communities.
Synthesis (existing Level 8): analyse the interrelationship between religions and beliefs and other disciplines or areas of understanding, eg scientific enquiry.
I am optimistic that the integration of these will improve pupils’ attainment as they progress through senior school and potentially into the sixth form. I am also intrigued to understand how we can maintain a seamless transition from primary school with a review of our progress criteria.
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.