My letter to the new Education Minister

Nicky MorganDear Nicky Morgan

May I add my voice to the many congratulating you on your promotion to Education Minister.

I would like to draw your attention to an unfortunate, and probably unintended, consequence of the disapplication of National Curriculum Levels by your predecessor.

The NC Levels are a national system of criterion referencing that gives English education a significant strategic advantage. The principles are  internationally admired. They have been copied already in Australia and are now being introduced in the USA as part of the Common Core.

NC Levels give teachers an essential tool to communicate the ability level of any particular student to other teachers, or other schools. They need this just as much as an architect needs a standard system of measurement to communicate the plan of a house to its builders.

To give just one example, secondary school teachers are used to having their feeder primaries pass them an accurate assessment of their new intake in September. Without this, they must throw the new students into a round of testing before then can group them into sets. This simply slows them down and makes the whole process inefficient.

Higher up the school, we have the solid and respected criterion-referenced assessments of GCSEs and A-levels. Removing criterion referencing in KS2 and KS3 will increase teachers’ workloads, not reduce them.

The majority of the schools I am in contact with as part of my job tell me that they intend to continue using NC Levels for as long as they can. Please help them by committing to the reintroduction of criterion assessment in some form at all Key Stages. In the interim, you could reduce teachers’ stress levels enormously by announcing that the Department will continue to support NC Levels for those schools that wish to continue using them.

Ian Grove-Stephensen


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