English criteria -Life without Levels (kind of…)


We’ve recently been negotiating our way through how we want to approach ‘Life without Levels’in our School and English Faculty and have just completed our Reading criteria grid.


Our school has adopted a flightpath model whereby we plan to take the new KS2 score/CATS/NGRAT reading & Spelling age, and come up with a ‘Starting Profile’ and a flightpath towards a certain estimated target level. It will look something like this.

Starting Profile Expected Attainment by end of Year 11
Starting Profile 1 8
Starting Profile 2 7
Starting Profile 3 5
Starting Profile 4 4
Starting Profile 5 3

If a student in Starting Profile 3 (KS4 target: 5) did this:

Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11
5 6 5 4 5

What would be calculated automatically by the computer and reported to students/parents?

Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11
Expected Progress Good Progress Expected Progress Less than Expected Progress Expected Progress

We, as teachers will need to still identify what an ‘In-Year Level 5’ or an ‘In-Year Level 6’ looks like, as that will be what we enter on to the computer. The computer will then automatically generate the Progress judgements. It’s nigh impossible to fully escape levels!

BUT we will only talk in terms of criteria and progress to KS3 and then potentially over time, all students, not levels.

Many posts have discussed different approaches to this, school vs national bell curves, etc, but what I’d like to briefly share and hopefully gather feedback on is what we have done to arrive at what we see as a

Workable criteria model for the English Faculty of measuring progress.

We looked at all criteria available to us from KS2 to GCSE.


We quickly realised that there was very little difference between our old KS3 APP criteria, and the new GCSE criteria. We were also struck by the similarities between the Literature and the Language reading assessment criteria. We do Eduqas, but it’s all much of a muchness.

Therefore we decided to create a one size fits all model for Reading and Writing.

How would this work in practice? Shouldn’t there be a separate set of criteria for each year group? We wrestled with this for 2 hours, but decided not to (too complex), and got round it by stealing @chrishildrew’s Chew Valley School idea of stepping back the criteria to mean a different ‘level’ (but not really a level) in every year!

E.G. If a student hits the 3rd box down for ‘Response to text’ beginning ‘Confident Overview ability’ in Year 7, we will report in an ‘in-year 9’, but by KS4 that would only be an ‘in-year 6’ skill. Therefore if the student was a SP1 student (target of a KS4 ‘8’), in year 7, they would be making good progress (+1) but if they stayed at that criteria for the duration, by KS4 it would be reported in as ‘less than expected progress’

Here’s our Reading one:


Yes, it’s criteria based predominantly I know, but we plan to test knowledge of core texts within our Reading column 1, and we also have ‘exciting’ (although one colleague at first called them Dickensian!) plans to test the accumulation of new vocab, spellings and grammar skills over time, separately in KS3.

It’s draft 3, and here are things we have learned so far in the process:

  1. We have been able to be creative with the wording and add some of the things we want to see that are not quite specified by the examiner.
  2. It’s tough but not impossible to expand GCSE bands to a greater number.
  3. We got lazy with Band 1 and 9.
  4. We have realised that stem words are useful -e.g. ‘highly/Most’ but don’t always work well.
  5. We came up with the idea of putting in bold any words that make the criteria better than the one directly below it.
  6. Some skills obviously come in at the top end, and some should really disappear at the  bottom end. e.g. does the examiner really expect a student at the bottom end to even be able to give a ‘limited analysis of poetic form’? It’s far more likely that the student might comment in a limited way on language, so we removed form in the lower echelons.
  7. We are pleased with what our notional GCSE ‘5’ looks like – we have tried to use words like ‘thoughtful’ (traditionally associated with B grade)  to make it as challenging as possible. We tapped into the bottom end of Band 4 (one off top) for some of our wording.
  8. We like the fact we were able to get it down to 5 columns and fit it on one page.
  9. We will withhold the numbers part of the chart from students.
  10. We’re still not convinced whether it is student friendly enough.
  11. We will need to moderate with the new criteria to establish consistency of understanding obviously!
  12. We hope to have a version of this sheet in students’ books and tick and date to show progress over time.

I hope this is of some use, and look forward to any feedback.

Dropbox link to Writing and Reading criteria documents






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