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Last reviewed on 28 February 2018
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How does an assessment system based on age-related expectations work? Get to grips with the key principles, and find out how 3 primary schools and a secondary school use the age-related expectations assessment approach.

How does it work?

Explaining concept or term icon

Terminology in this article

Our research showed that schools and organisations use similar terms for this type of assessment approach. Terms include:

  • Age-related expectations
  • End-of-year expectations
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Some schools choose to assess against age-related expectations as their assessment system. The details of such a system vary between schools, but the key principles can include:

  • Looking at the curriculum and agreeing the knowledge and skills pupils should achieve at the end of each year group
  • Assigning grades or descriptors to each level of competency. These form the 'expectations'
  • At the end of the year, teachers assess whether pupils have achieved the criteria for them to have met the expectations, and have therefore made sufficient progress from the start of the year

Primary school: case studies

Yerbury Primary School

We spoke to the deputy headteacher at Yerbury Primary School in Islington about its assessment system. The system was developed in partnership with 18 other schools in Islington over 2014/15. It was implemented in schools over 2015/16, and evaluated and refined during 2016/17.

In it, the National Curriculum is broken down into statements and objectives, which show what pupils should be achieving over each academic year. Teachers also pull statements from the interim assessment frameworks. The statements are transferred onto grids.

Teachers highlight statements on the grids whenever they see evidence the pupil is achieving them

Teachers highlight statements on the grids whenever they see evidence the pupil is achieving them. Evidence comes from:

  • Observing and talking to pupils in lessons
  • Pupils’ work in exercise books
  • A low-pressure assessment week every term

Different colour pens are used to highlight statements in each term so teachers can easily see if pupils have been doing it regularly, or if it was achieved once in term 1, but not again.

The percentage of statements highlighted puts each pupil into a category of either ‘beginning’, ‘working within’ or ‘secure’.


Stamford St Gilbert’s Church of England (CofE) Primary School

Stamford St Gilbert’s CofE Primary School in Lincolnshire also uses age-related expectations to assess pupils internally. There are descriptors for each year group, which are all available on its website.

The school has also published a presentation from an assessment information evening for parents which outlines how pupils are assessed and how progress is tracked. 

Secondary school: case study

The approach

We visited West London Free School in Hammersmith and Fulham, and spoke to headteacher Hywel Jones and assistant headteacher Wade Nottingham about the school’s approach to assessment.

Wade explained that heads of departments and subject teachers have agreed upon the knowledge and skills appropriate for each group in each subject, and assigned corresponding grades ranging from A*-G.

Grade ‘A’ for a year 7 pupil reflects that pupil’s achievements, given his/her age. To achieve the same grade, a year 10 pupil would need to demonstrate a relatively greater depth of knowledge and understanding in that particular subject area.

This assessment system is distinct from levels because the assessment system is tied directly to the school's own curriculum and is relative to each year group.

The school does not assess whether pupils are ‘working towards’, ‘meeting’ or ‘exceeding’ grades in each subject. Hywel said that a pupil is “either working at a particular level, or not”.

The school may adopt an equivalent grading system based on numbers 9 to 1 as GCSE reforms become embedded.

How it works

Pupils sit a half-termly unit test in every subject. Subject staff set the questions, and the tests are set out in a way that mirrors formal exam papers. Each pupil is given a grade, capturing their attainment in these tests.

Pupils also sit end-of-year tests in every subject. These tests assess the ‘whole domain’ of learning in that subject rather than what pupils have been taught that year. To achieve top grades in their assessment, year 9 pupils, for instance, should also refer to relevant subject content taught during years 7 and 8.

Week-by-week, class teachers conduct ongoing formative assessments of pupils’ learning. Hywel said there is an emphasis on the importance of questioning at the school as a means for teachers to ‘unpick’ what their pupils have learnt.

Teachers often use quizzes with their classes to capture pupils’ grasp of a particular topic, and pupils regularly complete self-quizzes in lessons or for homework.

The school does not ask its teachers to conduct and report formal weekly or fortnightly assessments.

Evidencing judgements

Hywel and Wade explained that while staff refer to a set of grade descriptors for each year group, the judgements “are not set in stone”. Teachers are encouraged to use their professional judgement when allocating a grade, taking into account, for example:

  • The degree to which a pupil has understood and reflected upon curriculum content
  • The extent to which a pupil is able to recall relevant content taught during previous years and/or in other subjects

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