The implications of the Government’s “assessment without levels’’ reform for teachers in primary schools

Birmingham, Victoria (2022) The implications of the Government’s “assessment without levels’’ reform for teachers in primary schools. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Birmingham, Victoria Ann_PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Aug 2021_Final Award Mar 2022.pdf - Accepted Version

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Levels formed the basis of primary school assessment since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988. After nearly 30 years in use in 2011, under 2010 Coalition Government reform, levels were removed from non-statutory assessment. As such, Assessment without Levels (AwLs) is an emerging field of research with little known about the impact it has had on teaching and assessment practices in primary schools to date. It is on that basis that this research emerged.

Mixed methods were used to investigate the impact of AwLs on primary teaching and assessment practices. An online survey canvassed the views of teachers across Key Stage 1 and Key stage 2 and interviews were carried out with year 2 and year 6 teachers and senior leaders in a small sample of schools. The teacher interviews aimed to complement the survey data by providing in-depth insights from teachers who taught in years with Standardised Assessment Tasks (SATs). Senior Leader Team (SLT) interviews provided a context for the school and the experiences of the classroom teachers adapting to AwLs. The study drew on three theoretical lenses through which to analyse the data. The first made use of assessment theory, particularly assessment concepts of validity and reliability. The second lens was that of neoliberalism, which was deployed as a tool for understanding the impact of this ideology on education policy. And the third lens was teacher agency, especially the ecological theory of agency from Priestley et al. (2013).

One of the underpinning aims for AwLs reform was to confront the longstanding issue of teaching to the test, my findings reveal that not only has it failed to achieve this but schools in this study relied more heavily on the limited assessment guidance available and externally purchased resources aligned towards SATs framing and content. Because of the increased focus on assessed content, findings suggest the validity of SATs must be questioned as representing the learning they purport to assess. The continuation of test-based accountability to hold primary schools to account while scaling back assessment guidance has led to schools becoming overly reliant on the guidance they do possess. This undermines the reform’s goal to increase autonomy to schools for their own assessment and has opened up the market for assessment resources aligned to SATs rather than curriculum learning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
26 August 2021Submitted
17 March 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Primary assessment, assessment without levels, England education policy, assessment validity, SATs, neoliberal education policy, teacher agency
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-02 - teacher training
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 13:40
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 13:40

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