Assessment at Key Stage 3

Reporting Progress at Key Stage 3 ‘Life without Levels’

The use of National Curriculum levels as a means of tracking and reporting student progress was discontinued by the Department for Education last year.  The system of using 4a, 4b etc for the allocation of end of year target levels and assessment grades is now no longer a requirement. This has coincided with the development of the new, more skills based, National Curriculum in Key Stages 3 and 4.

There has been much published about the limitations of the old levels system. Primarily there has been concern that levels have placed too much emphasis on achieving a certain level and not the development of the key knowledge and skills within the subject. An assessment system should not only give an accurate snapshot of achievement, but more importantly show students clearly what they need to do to progress.

Secondary education is now seen more as a continuous journey towards GCSE success from Year 7 to 11, rather than a separate Key Stage 3 and 4 with an arbitrary boundary at the end of Year 9. The so called ‘Life without Levels’ has allowed schools the independence to develop their schemes of learning and assessment systems to match their learners’ needs without the constraints of the levels system.

At The Roseland Academy we have been working hard over the Autumn term to develop our schemes of learning and assessments in Years 7, 8 and 9. From this half term (Spring 1), there will be a new format to the way attainment and progress is reported.

To Listen to Dr Tim Oates, Chair of the Expert Panel responsible for the recent review of the National Curriculum, explaining the limitations of the old levels system, please watch the link below.


Target Grades and School Performance Indicators

Previously, the government has used a student’s English and Mathematics Year 6 SATs grades as a predictor to estimate what GCSE grades they should achieve as a minimum ‘expected progress’. These were then used to produce target grades for each student in each subject. Under this system, students could have been viewed to have achieved or not achieved their expected progress through their time at secondary school and this was used as a measure of school performance. However the risk in this system was that students who under performed on their SATs stood the risk of target grades that did not provide enough challenge. Additionally for students who achieved lower SATs grades, allocating and sharing lower GCSE target grades could risk demotivating them from believing that higher grades could be achieved.

From 2016, Progress 8 is now used as the main performance indicator of school performance. In a nutshell the Government looks at a student’s Y6 SATs in English and Maths and their GCSE grades in 8 core subjects. If the student achieves the national average, they get a Progress 8 score of 0, if they achieve 1 grade above the national average they get a +1 score etc. The entire year group is averaged to give the school score which is reported in the league tables. In 2016 The Roseland Academy achieved the highest in Cornwall, with +0.52.

The advantage of this system is there is no minimum expected progress, the system expects and rewards the maximum progress from each student irrespective of starting point.

At The Roseland Academy we use this data to set challenging targets to flightpath our students at least one whole GCSE grade above what we estimate to be the national average. Target grades are now continually reviewed in light of national trends, and may be updated to ensure we have the right data to track all students irrespective of ability, to achieve in the top percentiles nationally.

Assessing Skills and Knowledge (ASK)


Our use of National Curriculum levels is being replaced and improved by our own bespoke system called ASK. This assessment system with our updated schemes of learning, enriches the curriculum with GCSE level skills and knowledge from Year 7. It will provide assessments grades that are clearly linked to the level of skill and knowledge developed by the student and shows clearly what the student needs to do to develop further.


On completion of a module of work, a student’s skills and knowledge will be teacher assessed using ASK and awarded one of the following grades :

  • Launching
  • Developing
  • Securing
  • Mastering

ASK assesses the increasing complexity in a student’s understanding of the subject and is based around the well documented SOLO and Bloom’s taxonomy, both models that describes levels of increasing complexity in student’s understanding of subjects.

Here are some of the ASK descriptors that a teacher may use in determining the grade achieved by a student in a particular module of work:


Each module of learning will have a student friendly ASK document which shows clearly the skills and knowledge required. This also shows what is needed to progress.

All students will continually be encouraged to progress towards Mastering, with these skills and knowledge being on a level with higher GCSE grades.

below is an example of an ASK document for a Year 8 Science unit:



These documents are under production for each module of learning. They may be used in a variety of ways and break down the unit to allow the student to see clearly what they need to do next to progress.

ASK documents will shortly be available on our website to view for all modules in Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9.

Examination Week

In addition to ongoing ASK assessments, each year group will have an examination week in which each subject will be formally assessed. The grades from these assessments will allow us to assess overall progress in relation to individual target grades. The dates for these assessment weeks are:

  • Year 7 July 2017
  • Year 8 July 2017
  • Year 9 March 2017

 Data Sheets

The student data sheets, which previously reported national curriculum levels, have been updated over the Autumn term and from this half term (Spring 1) we will report ASK for each of the subjects studied. The first ASK descriptors are currently being collected and the new data sheet will be released shortly. Behaviour for Learning grades will continue to be reported on the data sheets.

The target for all of our students will be to aim their skills and knowledge towards Mastering. Internally we will track students by comparing their starting point SATs grades to their current ASK grades and therefore determine whether students are progressing in line with their peers of similar starting points. This tracking will direct further intervention or support if necessary.



Interpreting Behaviour for Learning Grades (Cooperation, Effort, Equipment, Independent Study)

Behaviour for Learning is assessed on a 1-3 scale using the following descriptors: