The removal of national curriculum levels is an acknowledgement that they were not a dependable way of defining achievement. Levels were used in a different ways by different people and organisations depending on the audience.
Because of the way that schools are evaluated by Ofsted, levels also led to children being moved on at undue pace rather than developing depth of understanding. Depending on how they were used, levels could also be used to label children and become a disincentive for learning.
The new world of ‘assessment without levels’ is intended to encourage a more professional, intelligent assessment. There is a recognition that learning is neither neat nor linear. The simple attachment of a level could undermine learning as there could be gaps in specific areas of learning for a child. Progression is more focused on understanding and developing greater depth in the national curriculum than on mere progression to the next set of content.
The mastery pedagogy works on the principle that all learners, with effort, will meet expectations. It works on the premise that great teaching, based on formative assessment, particularly great questioning, is key. Precise assessment, teaching that closes any gaps, thinking about ability differently are all part of the mastery pedagogy.
The notion behind a ‘mastery level’ came about from the performance descriptors that were published, in draft, some months ago. This so called ‘mastery level’ has now been replaced in the teacher assessment information that has now been published with the phrase ‘even greater depth.’
All children should have a deep learning of key ideas/constructs and opportunities for even deeper learning (growth mindset). For some learners they will be able to access, within a construct, even greater challenge to deepen their thinking further. Mastery learning is deep learning that sticks, can be recalled over time etc. It is necessary to have deep learning in order to meet the key objectives. In essence, in order to meet the objectives securely children need to have mastered them.
This diagram helps to clarify the concept of mastery and greater depth in the national curriculum:
What we do know for certain is that mastery is not:
• Mastery and greater depth – not working on content from the next year group.
• Mastery and greater depth in mathematics – not practising the same concept with bigger numbers.
• Mastery and greater depth in reading – not necessarily reading a more challenging text.
The Characteristics of mastery and greater depth in the national curriculum could therefore be summarised as:
Get in Touch
If you still have questions about mastery and greater depth in the National Curriculum or want to talk about different options, join me on twitter @CliveDaviesOBE or for resources and publications related to Mastery areas, get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.
Clive is a former headteacher and inspector, having inspected over 200 schools. His school gained a National Curriculum award and was featured in the Times Educational Supplement, one of three schools recognised for their quality practice.
He was awarded an OBE for his services to education in 2007.