Growth Pathways

How is assessment at Key Stage 3 Changing from September 2016?

In September 2014 the government announced that National Curriculum Levels were to be abolished and not replaced. Instead, from September 2016, all secondary schools in England and Wales are required to publish their own 11-16 assessment policies, detailing how progress and attainment across Key Stage 3-4 will be assessed and reported. This guide explains how we plan to assess and report student achievement from September 2016 across Year 7, with a particular focus on the changes at Key Stage 3.

Why have National Curriculum Levels been abolished?

Levels were first introduced alongside the National Curriculum in 1988. For almost 30 years, they have provided schools, students and parents or carers with a universal language around assessment across Key Stage 1-3, as well as a common criteria against which achievement in individual subjects could be benchmarked, tracked and monitored.

Until this year, Levels were also used to report the results of Key Stage 1 and 2 statutory assessments (SATS) in Years 2 and 6. Following the abolition of Levels, for the first time this summer, SATS results were not reported in the form of Levels but rather as a scaled score in the range of 80-130. At KS2, the government’s expectation is that 85% of all students meet the new ‘secondary ready’ score of 100 (roughly equivalent to a Level 4b previously).

The government’s decision to remove Levels from the National Curriculum was motivated by a number of different factors. The main reasons were:

a) Accuracy and consistency

Levels were originally intended to be used as broad end-of-unit descriptors, providing students and parents with a best-fit summary of how well learners had mastered the knowledge and skills associated with individual subjects. In practise however, the increasingly widespread use of Levels to assess individual tasks and assignments, distorted this purpose.

b) Clarity and coherence

The introduction of sub-levels (e.g 4a, 4b, 4c), whilst enabling schools to demonstrate progress at shorter, more regular intervals, has further undermined the usefulness of Levels. Government research suggested that many students and parents or carers did not fully understand and could not clearly explain the difference between specific Levels or sub-levels in relation to different subjects.

c) Fixed v. growth mind-set

Where Levels were the main focus of conversations with students and parents or carers, learners understandably often focused more on the Level or sub-Level awarded, than on the specific guidance and feedback provided. Removing Levels therefore has the potential to accelerate learning and student progress by focusing feedback on those aspects of the curriculum where their knowledge and understanding is secure and those areas where there are gaps.

Linked to this, evidence also suggests that removing Levels and the label associated with them, emphases to learners that there is no ceiling on achievement and helps to promote a positive growth mind-set.

Assessment principles

These changes give us the opportunity to introduce a new assessment system that addresses the concerns raised. It allows us to have a system that:

  • Is simple and easy to understand for staff, pupils and parents
  • Is based on high expectations and challenge
  • Is linked to the curriculum and focuses on developing the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to succeed at KS4
  • Encourages a growth mindset by providing pupils with action based feedback focusing on specific objectives
  • Allows all pupils to be successful learners by focussing on the progress they make from their starting point
  • Differentiates between pupils of different abilities, giving early recognition of pupils who are falling behind and those who are excelling

Growth Pathways & monitoring progress

From September 2016, Key Stage 3 targets will be replaced with Growth Pathways. Instead of using Levels or sub-Levels to assess achievement and inform feedback, the core knowledge, concepts and skills that underpin each subject will be assigned to 4 Growth Pathways.

In year 7, pupil achievement will be assessed in relation to the Growth Pathway each pupil has been placed on. Pathways are labelled G R O & W. Pupils’ progress will be assessed each term as Exceeding Expected, Meeting Expected or Less than Expected, dependent on how well they are meeting the criteria within their given Pathway. Each pupil will be expected to have a good understanding of the knowledge, concepts and skills outlined in their Growth Pathways Curriculum Information Booklet. Very simply, each pupils’s target is to master the knowledge, concepts and skills delivered to them in each subject each year.

Growth Pathways and aspirational targets

In order to provide pupils, parents and carers with a measurable indicator of how well learners are progressing and what they are currently on track to achieve at the end of Key Stage 4, pupil achievement in each subject area will be reported in relation to their current Growth Pathway. Each Growth Pathway will have a GCSE Target Range, this indicates the outcomes that pupils are on track to achieve if they continue to work hard towards achieving what is expected of them on their pathway. Once pupils formally begin to study GCSEs towards the end of Year 9 or start of Year 10, this KS4 target range will be replaced with a single aspirational GCSE Target Grade. GCSE target grades are now expressed as the new 9-1 grading system which will have replaced the old A*-G grades.

Using a target range instead of a single target grade during years 7-9 emphasises that outcomes are not fixed or pre-determined. To reinforce the school’s high expectations and the idea that there is no cap or limit on what pupils can achieve, Growth Pathways will be reviewed at regular intervals. Where a pupil is consistently working above and beyond the expectations of their pathway and if we feel it is appropriate, they will be moved up to the next Growth Pathway.

How will pupil progress in relation to their Growth Pathway be reported?

Pupil Growth Pathways provide a clear, consistent and measureable benchmark against which achievement in different subjects can be assessed and reported. In place of progress towards a Level or sub-Level on pupils’ reports, teachers will indicate how well pupils are progressing on their individual Pathways:

Exceeding Expected: Indicates a higher level of knowledge, understanding and skills than that of their Growth Pathway at that particular time given what has been taught.

Making Expected: Indicates pupils have mastered the knowledge, understanding and skills of their Growth Pathway thus far.

Less than Expected: Indicates there are elements within the knowledge, understanding and skills required of their Growth Pathway that have not been fully grasped to date. Pupils will have received feedback (either verbally or outlined in the marking of their exercise books) from subject teachers as to what actions they need to take to address this.

Pupil Action Planning (PAP)

Following each reporting session, pupils have the opportunity to plan their next steps to help them progress as a learner. This will be completed during a dedicated structured PAP session in form time. The objective is to help pupils to understand and evaluate their report so that meaningful actions can be created. Pupils will set themselves `Actions to Support Progress’ which will be transferred into their planners via the Pupil Action Plan report. These actions will be reviewed by subject teachers and signed off as complete when teachers are satisfied that pupils have met the requirements.

Reporting Cycle

We report at regular intervals throughout the academic year and, each year, parents will receive three reports: 2 Performance Summary Reports & 1 Full Subject Report.

Performance Summary - For each subject, teachers will indicate how well a pupil is working in relation to their assigned Growth Pathway. Alongside these, teachers will make an assessment on the pupils Attitude to Learning, Behaviour and Homework.

Full Subject Report – This report will contain the same data as the Performance Summary. In addition teachers will add comments which will form pupils’ ‘Actions to Support Progress’; these comments will give specific areas pupils must focus on in order to further develop along their pathway.


This article, "Growth Pathways", was posted on 12-01-2017.