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Assessment at Grove Road - Learning Ladders

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Assessment without levels at Grove Road


“As part of our reforms to the national curriculum, the current system of ‘levels’ used to report children’s attainment and progress will be removed.  It will not be replaced.


We believe this system is complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents. It also encourages teachers to focus on a pupil’s current level, rather than consider more broadly what the pupil can actually do. Prescribing a single detailed approach to assessment does not fit with the curriculum freedoms we are giving schools.” Department for Education - June 2013


Due to the Department for Education’s announcement, the staff at Grove Road has had to investigate other ways of measuring attainment and progress without levels. We have decided to use a new system called Learning Ladders.


What are Learning Ladders?


Learning Ladders are booklets (for reading, writing and maths), which contain a series of broadly hierarchical skills linked to the September 2014 National Curriculum end of year expectations for each year group. These are arranged in a ladder type format, with each skill being a rung on the ladder.


These ladders were originally created by Hiltingbury Junior School, as part of the DfE Assessment Innovation Fund for schools, to showcase assessment systems, which could be used after levels.


“Our system is designed to ensure that pupils can readily see their next steps in key reading, writing and maths skills, as well as being able to keep track of the progress that they have made so far. This is easy to share with parents too. For teachers, tracking and target setting is all in one place.”


Sam Hunter

Headteacher, Hiltingbury Junior


“The Learning Ladders system is clear, engaging and accessible for both children and parents.”DfE competition judging panel


All children in Years One to Six will be assessed using a Learning Ladder for reading, writing and maths. Sample learning ladder booklets can be downloaded below. Reception class follows the Early Learning Goals (Birth to Five Framework). The Ladder breaks down objectives into a progressive journey for children. The Ladder rungs provide the next steps for a child in their learning.


Each subject is divided into different ladders that represent key skills. The ladder then has rungs which show the key objectives, taken from the new National Curriculum, that the children need to work through.  Although the path of learning is never linear, the rungs set out a typical journey of learning.  Teachers will sign off the rungs as children achieve them.

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Under each rung of the ladder there are three white boxes. When a child has demonstrated a suitable independent competence with a rung, the boxes are signed and dated by the class teacher/TA.


Each white box that is signed has a different weighting:


  • Box one shows an independent emerging grasp of the concept.

  • Box two shows an established grasp of the concept.

  • Box three shows a full understanding of the concept (and can they apply it to other areas where suitable).


The three boxes must be shown on three different dates to show that a child has fully achieved a skill.


Where possible, rungs are signed with the child present (during a 'live discussion'). This obviously has positive self-esteem benefits for the child, as well as them keeping up to date with their achievements on their learning journey. It also provides the opportunity for the child to fully demonstrate their depth of knowledge of skills, before they are signed off, therefore making the assessment process even more accurate.


Over time, teachers will be able to see which rungs a child has achieved in relation to the end of year expectations. We can then report to parents, at the end of the year, if their child is Emerging, Expected or Exceeding the end of year expectations.


Each term children are formatively assessed. The tests are analysed and these inform teachers' planning for the next half term – we aim to teach what the children do not know yet!


In your child’s end of year report in July we will report reading, writing and maths attainment against the year group expectations.


The aim is for a child to reach ‘Expected’ for the year group they are in. Please note that the new curriculum is much more challenging.


New statutory assessment tests for pupils in Year 2 and Year 6 will be used from 2016 onwards. A scaled score will be used instead of levels – from 69 to 141, with 100 being the ‘expectation’. This will correlate to the 'Expected' expectation in the school.


Learning Ladders overview

Sam Hunter, Headteacher, and her team at Hiltingbury Junior School explain the Learning Ladders approach and how it developed into a system that won the DfE's Assessment Innovation grant.

  • Grove Road Primary School,
  • Cromwell Road,
  • Hounslow, Middlesex, TW3 3QQ