Assessment and the national curriculum

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So levels have gone! The attainment target for the 2014 national curriculum does not describe the outcomes we expect of pupils in the way that levels did. It requires only that ‘By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the programme of study.’

This section provides subject specific guidance for teachers of geography for setting up a system for assessing without levels. It outlines what it means to make progress in geography, providing age-specific expectations for 7, 9, 11 and 14 years. These can be used to inform planning and support the development of mark schemes and other good assessment practice.

For more information download the flyer Assessment and progression framework for geography (PDF).

To guide you through the changes we produced this PowerPoint presentation, which acts as a basis for discussion with colleagues on assessment.

For key stage 3

The GA has published an eBook Assessing progress in Your Key Stage 3 Geography Curriculum by David Gardner, Paul Weeden and Graham Butt. This 42-page eBook is designed to help you to develop rigorous and consistent approaches to assessing your key stage 3 students’ progress in geography lessons, underpinned by an understanding of progression in geography. It provides an understanding of progression in geography, offers advice and guidance on assessing without levels and aims to support you in reviewing your current assessment practice. This title places assessment at the heart of teaching and learning.

It will inform you about:

  • planning for assessment over the key stage
  • choosing assessments that are fit for purpose
  • using assessment to promote learning.

This revised digital version of the 2007 title has been updated for the 2014 National Curriculum and includes new chapters with advice and guidance on assessing without levels.

This planning grid will be useful for planning a key stage 3 with progression and assessment in mind.

There are resources free to download for GA members that can be adapted and used for CPD sessions in your school available on the page: Assessment without levels - practical steps to support progression and attainment in geography.

For primary

The Geographical Association have worked with in collaboration with Rising Stars to produce a Progression Framework for geography. Progression statements are given for each year group, covering all the expectations of the new Programmes of Study. Statements are clearly organised so that teachers can see how pupils are expected to progress through Key Stages 1 and 2. - Each progression statement is accompanied by three ‘what to look for’ guidance notes that enable teachers to evaluate individual pupil’s progress against the statement and to identify the next steps in learning.

GA CPD course - Leading primary geography

  • This course will help you successfully lead primary geography and raise the standard of geography teaching and learning in your school. Find out more.


DfE guidance:

'Schools will be able to introduce their own approaches to formative assessment, to support pupil attainment and progression. The assessment framework should be built into the school curriculum, so that schools can check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations at the end of the key stage, and so that they can report regularly to parents.' DfE (2013a) Assessing Without Levels (

National curriculum levels have provided a national standard to apply for over 20 years, however the 2014 national curriculum has almost nothing to say about progression, standards or assessment. The removal of the levels presents both a huge challenge as well as an opportunity to reflect on our current assessment practice, to be clear about the standards we expect, and use this freedom to devise a system for assessment which engages pupils with their learning, promotes progression and high standards.

This Teaching Geography article by Paul Weeden and John Hopkin (Summer 2014) will help you understand the context of assessing without levels. It outlines the challenges ahead and the vital role played by assessment for learning practices in promoting pupil progress.

Generic support has come from many organisations, including subject associations. The NAHT has set out some underpinning principles for assessment and a useful design checklist for schools as they implement the 2014 national curriculum. These statements provide an evaluation check list for schools seeking to develop or acquire an assessment system which you may find useful.

The National Association of Headteachers (2014) Report of the NAHT Commission on Assessment can be accessed here.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has set out what Ofsted expects in relation to assessment and the 2014 national curriculum:

'Good schools have always tracked their pupils’ progress and Ofsted will expect to see this continue. We will not endorse any particular approach. But we do expect every school to be able to show what their pupils know, understand and can do through continuous assessment and summative tests.'

Sir Michael Wilshaw's speech at the North of England Education Conference (15 January 2014) is available here.

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