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How much do teachers in England use National Curriculum Levels nowadays?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by DanielPearcy, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. Having taught at a private school and now an international school over the past 3 years, I have no clue if National Curriculum Levels are still used often in Maths classes nowadays.
    If so, how to teachers now use them to improve student learning? and what do teachers or students think of them in general terms?
    Also, are they still used to rank primary schools in league tables or is the Value Added Score more prevalent in the ranking criteria?
  2. adamcreen

    adamcreen Occasional commenter

    a) all the time. our schemes of work, the notes on the board, the reports to parents every 6 weeks, the target setting in the department, are all based around levels.

    b) we use them to classify the level of work, not as means of improvement in themselves. we think they are very good.

    c) we get them from the primary schools to put students into sets. we don't look at primary league tables in secondary.
  3. We use them all the time at my school - whole school tracking/reporting to parents every 6 weeks!
    However, I think that they are pretty useless when used on a such a frequent basis. In my opinion, the national curriculum was designed to track progress from one Key Stage to the next. It then got used from one year to the next, then one term to the next, now every 6 weeks!
    I have had to justify why, according to my tracking, my pupils haven't made progress during a 12 week period. The fact is that they HAVE made progress, loads of it. But not enough to warrant a whole step up in a level or sublevel. Just because my whole class may have nailed the algebraic content of, for example, 5a, that doesn't mean that they ARE at a 5a yet, as I haven't done the Shape and Space with them.
    Useful in the long term and for setting incoming pupils (apart from when they are teacher assessed by some primary school teachers who simply don't GET maths and/or those who give good marks to nice, friendly, polite pupils irrespective of whether they deserve it or not!), but they are, in my opinion, being used for something which was never the intention at the outset.
  4. DM

    DM New commenter

    Can you hear that whirring sound? That's the QCDA spinning in its grave.
  5. In case it wasn't obvious, I should have said "We HAVE TO use them all the time"! I think it's ridiculous personally!
  6. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    In state schools I've worked in, it's a requirement that every lesson must have the lesson objective on the board and the objective(s) must have NC levels. Every child must be able to point to a line in his her book showing what level work they are attempting today.

    This seems to be how SLT interpret the notion that "you can only progress when you know what you're aiming for".

    The notion makes perfect sense to me. The implementation is insane.
  7. Fine to level topics but IMO pointless issuing kids levels as they are often fabricated by teachers to ensure adequate progress is made.
    By the time the pupil gets to year 10 you get overinflated targets that were never externally verified.
    Used in conjunction with SATS they held some worth. Placed in the hands of either clueless or less professional teachers and they are pointless.
  8. I'd add the word "pressurised" to that too.
    EDIT - or should it just be pressured? or under-pressure? Oh well, I think you get what I mean!
  9. DM

    DM New commenter

    When levels are abolished in September 2014, your SLT will have to invent some other hoop for you to jump through.
  10. Chazette

    Chazette New commenter

    Our SLT tried to get us to sublevel every topic so that I could tell a child exactly what a 5b was. Didn't go so well i'll be honest!
    I'm the same as another poster above - students must have a leveled LO written every lesson, and on the front of their books are written their current grade and their target grade which they need to point to if an observer walks in the room.
    But then I also have to write VF (verbal feedback) in their books everytime I talk to a child about their work so I guess its just more stuff to do!

  11. But they're a bit like nuclear weapons -vthey can't be uninvented!
  12. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    The pupils are so overly concerned with levels in this school that if they aren't told what level the work in a lesson is then they will inevitably ask.
    Personally I think our pupils are over-assessed (5 reports per year) and overly concerned with levels.
    The end of modular GCSEs will mean the end of regular staggeringly poor January module results compared to what you might expect from a Year 10 cohort given their KS3 levels.
    While there is nothing wrong with the idea of different topics being different levels I don't see much value in giving pupils a level as it implies that a pupil being level 5 is some sort of meaningful construct upon which further assumptions are based wrt to future progress etc.
    These assumptions weren't especially valid when there were SATs tests and are even less valid now the assessments are being done by teachers under pressure to show progress.
    While the whole you need to do xyz to improve to level 6 is perfectly valid in a more skills based subject (in order to get level 6 you must demonstrate skill x) it often doesn't make a whole lot of sense in a knowledge based one (in order to get level 6 you need to know more stuff)
    If levels are going to be used at all I would like AT1 to carry much more weight and be assessed far more than it currently is.
  13. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Thing is, the use of levels makes sense in some other subjects where mixed ability classes is the norm.

    In a "write an essay" or "design a poster" lesson, it's quite reasonable to put up a series of objectives, level them, and every child in the class can genuinely work on appropriate work moving to wards their targets.

    Maths doesn't really work like that, IMHO. A child can be level 4 in one strand of the curriculum and level 8 in another, so knowledge of level on its own isn't enough.. And it doesn't help them anyway. If today's topic is "simultaneous equations", there's not really a lot of point (other than the political one) in pretending that there's a level 4 activity available, because if there is, then really no one's going to progress as you're teaching at least 2 different topics in that lesson and that just means no one will get enough support.
  14. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Completely agree. Furthermore if a pupil ends the lesson able to do level 7 questions on simultaneous equations then what can you tell them about how they can progress to level 8 that is more meaningful than "know more stuff"
    I taught completing the square to my top set year 9 class today. What's the correct answer to the question "What level is this?". Does being able to complete the square have any impact at all on their level? It certainly won't if we base their end of year level on a past SATs paper as is traditional in our school.
    I am also of the opinion that a pupil can be one level in a certain strand one day and another the next depending on what else is going on in their day and given that the difference between being level 4 and level 5 is potentially one mark how meaningful are the test results in isolation anyway.
    I find that telling them what level things are at the start of the lesson just makes some pupils think that some things are too hard for them. This annoys me as some topics with high levels require little more than remembering and using what are quite simple rules. Understanding the topic might be difficult but understanding is often not required in order for pupils to succeed at GCSE provided they can remember and follow a quite basic mechanical algorithm.
    A relatively weak mathematician could, for example, answer questions on laws of indices without much difficulty provided they can remember the rules.
  15. I agree.
    I am happy to give the pupils lower levels than they got last time.
    If SLT don't like it they can remove me from the school.
    Im sure when the next batch of GCSE/AS external results come through for my class though they will be happy.
    IMO external results are all that matters in terms of assessment. All the fabricated results and hyped up progress all gets levelled when the 'real' results come out.

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