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Does APP have a place in the new curriculum?

In 2008, the Department for Education with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority released a document called “Assessing pupils’ progress: Assessment at the heart of learning” which introduced a new assessment strategy that would revolutionise assessment.

Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) was a structured new approach to teacher assessment which was designed to help teachers fine-tune the needs of their learners. APP came with its own handbook, assessment guidelines and annotated exemplars of pupils’ work in a standards file. Teachers in the pilot scheme liked the strategy and said it gave them “the confidence and ability to recognise how and when pupils are learning”.

APP involved teachers periodically assessing examples of work using the guidelines giving them a profile of their students’achievements across subjects. Evidence could include short or extended pieces of writing, information from different areas of the curriculum, annotating text or visual organisers like storyboards, oral work, self-assessment and observation.

The strategy supported teachers by promoting a broad curriculum and by developing teachers’ skills in assessing standards of attainment and the progress children have made.

Before the introduction of APP, best practice was to define progress using the results of tests and written work, using optional national curriculum tests, setting the pupils’ level twice per term on individual pieces of work and focusing on the outcome rather than the process.

APP was revolutionary because it focused on the learning journey and not just the end of unit grade. It meant that teachers could better implement individualised learning strategies for their pupils. The Oxford University study in 2009 agreed. 97% of teachers who were at that time using APP reported that the structured approach had enabled them to identify gaps in their pupils’ learning and 60% said that they could already see an impact on pupil attainment after using APP for three terms.

So, can this methodology be applied to National Curriculum 2014?

As part of the reforms, teachers and schools will no longer be able to rely on the National Curriculum Levels to make the judgements, but the methodology of regular judgements by qualified teachers could surely be applied to any and all level based assessment strategy. It’s just a case of working out standards of attainment that tally with the levels that a particular school develops.

The great thing about the removal of levels is that schools are no longer restricted to a national set of standards (outside of the statutory learning objectives). A school could theoretically set very high standards in order to challenge, not only its pupils, but itsteachers to push their pupils to fulfil higher expectations.

The basic structure of APP: periodic consideration of evidence, reviewing evidence using the assessment guidelines and making a judgement on specific assessment focuses doesn’t need to change even if the curriculum framework has.

The fact is that schools can choose from a multitude of different assessment strategies. They can look to the past; they can look to the future; they can collaborate with others; they can study techniques from abroad. The possibilities are broad and plentiful! So perhaps it is time to pull out that old APP Handbook, and see what you can take from this once revolutionary assessment strategy.

If you don’t have a copy, don’t worry – we have the APP Handbook available on our site in both the Primary and Secondary teaching sections.

We’ll be covering Assessment for Learning (AfL) in a later blog.



I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

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