UKEdMag: Opinion – Life after Levels by @aknill

With teachers in England facing an assessment system without levels, there is a lot of head-scratching going on in schools across the land wondering how they will demonstrate progress of pupils without the safety blanket of numbers and letters. In his piece – published in the June 2014 edition of UKEdMagazineAndy Knill offers his thoughts on how schools can deal with this change of practice, exploring how a SOLO taxonomy may be one of the solutions worthy of exploration.

[pullquote]We need holistic system that could be used from Early Years up to external qualifications”[/pullquote]

Levels are going in England – how do you feel about that? Elated? Concerned? Prepared? This is a topic that affects me as a Key Stage 3 teacher (students of 11-14 years old) and one that I have invested a lot of thought in, a topic that has caused some heart searching. This piece is a summary of observations and thoughts I have had in 2014, if interested in following up or offering own views, let’s use UKEdChat as a forum.

What’s next? As a recent online discussion has shown, there are a variety of ideas about how to move forward in a post-levels world. If comparisons between schools and phrases are to continue, imagine comparing between hundreds of different systems implemented by different schools. What was wrong with the yardstick from the out-going national curriculum? Central government is not offering a replacement.

I believe that Solo taxonomy may be a viable solution to ensure an easy, workable and useful system which can be established. Through my work advocating Solo taxonomy and other educational discussions, I’ve conversed with educators from across the world, especially from Australia and New Zealand, where the curriculum models are changing rapidly and highlights how to think more deeply and to develop progress skills. But the question remains about how to compare and track progress.

We need holistic system that could be used from Early Years up to external qualifications. Posts by Andy Day @Andyphilipday who blogs at can offer some insight into possible solutions. We need a system where it is clear where progress has been made and one that is easily shared between colleagues and with students.

My initial thoughts were as a framework based purely on the solo taxonomy, but this would be too vague as a curriculum tool to be utilised as it stands.

Levels in their original National Curriculum format ran from 0 to 8. The numbers were a framework on which subject specific criteria could be “attached”. As the framework was used in a way it was not intended – as a summative end of key stage grade. The profession started to sub-divide levels on an annual basis. Schools started to look for linear progress on a termly or half termly basis. I would not want to see the same happen to the Solo taxonomy stages (do not call them levels, please). However, within each stage the reporting of knowledge and skills can be further differentiated by being linked to literacy expectations across the curriculum and wider subject knowledge criteria.

I believe a subject based recognition for the development of knowledge and skills could complement the Solo taxonomy, but I would caution against a set list of facts to know. Some subject associations have already started to work on how this framework could look. From my own subject specialism of geography, the Ordnance Survey have been working with primary and secondary geographers to look at a framework for mapping skills. A Geographical Association group has been investigating this area too and presented initial findings at their 2014 Easter conference.

Read the conclusion of this article by clicking here to freely access via UKEdMagazine

Andy Knill is a Secondary Geography teacher in Essex. You can find him on Twitter @aknill and @globalsolo. He blogs at | Images also courtesy of Andy Knill, with thanks.


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