Assessment & Target Setting

Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning at Castle Hill High School. It provides a framework for identifying, monitoring and communicating students’ attainment and progress, identifying areas for further development and setting challenging targets.


1. Castle Hill Curriculum Levels

Since September 2014 schools have been free to create their own approaches to assessment. At Castle Hill we have chosen to stick with a curriculum levels approach through Year 7 to 9 as we feel that this provides a clear and rigorous framework for monitoring attainment and progress, setting targets and communicating progress with students and parents. Our Castle Hill Curriculum Levels are firmly rooted within the National Curriculum, ensuring that there is the same breadth and depth of study as is found in mainstream secondary schools. We’ve broken down National Curriculum content into levels which progress from 1 to 6 (in line with previous National Curriculum levels).

In order to show students’ mastery of the knowledge and skills within a level and the depth of learning each curriculum level is sub-divided into three sub-levels, a-c, for example:

Level 4c: Emerging – the student is familiar with, and has basic grasp of, the level 4 curriculum

Level 4b: Developing – the student has a good grasp of the level 4 curriculum although consolidation is still needed in some areas

Level 4a: Secure – the student has a thorough grasp of the level 4 curriculum and can apply knowledge and skills consistently.

A student would progress from 4a to 5c.

When reporting a student’s level at Castle Hill we refer to the level achieved ie. if a student is reported as being level 4b in English then we mean that their grasp of the level 4 curriculum is secure and they are working on becoming more confident.

In Year 10 students begin nationally accredited qualifications in all subjects. Our current suite of qualifications includes GCSE, BTEC, Entry Level Certificate, Functional Skills, CLAiT, Duke of Edinburgh Award and ASDAN all of which have unique grading systems. It makes no sense to extend the use of our curriculum levels into Year 10 and beyond and we therefore measure attainment using the appropriate qualification grades.


2. Benchmarking

Key Stage 2 assessment data should be available for all students arriving in Year 7. Experience shows us that, for various reasons (poor retention of knowledge and skills over the summer break, anxiety over the move to a new school, a high level of one-to-one support in primary school etc) a significant minority of students do not perform at their reported level when they arrive with us. Whilst we acknowledge that the reported KS2 data will be used in the Department of Education’s KS2-KS4 progress measure, it would be doing students a disservice to stick rigidly to unrealistic levels of attainment when setting our own progress targets, indeed the discrepancy would be compounded year on year as we set increasingly more unachievable targets.

We therefore carry out a benchmarking exercise during the first two weeks of Year 7. All students take a range of accredited English and maths assessments, a cognitive abilities test (CAT) and an emotional literacy assessment. The outcomes of these assessments are compared with the reported end of KS2 data and students are assigned a Castle Hill Curriculum Level. If there is a significant difference between reported KS2 attainment and our assessments then a decision to benchmark a student accordingly is only taken after consultation between subject leaders (English and maths), form teachers and the KS3 SENCO.


3. Target setting

Accurate assessment and analysis of year-on-year progress allows us to generate challenging and aspirational targets, which show what we expect our students to attain. Comparing current attainment against targets allows us to measure the impact of teaching and learning and intervene when necessary to support learning.

Two groups of whole school targets are set for every student:

  • KS2-KS4 targets for English, maths and science are set at the start of Year 7.
  • Year-on-year (ie. September – July) targets for all subjects.

Our targets are based on the performance of our highest achieving students in previous years. We’ve analysed the year-on-year progress of students who met the Department of Education’s KS2-KS4 expectation and used this as the basis of our ‘expected progress’ measure. This approach ensures that our expected progress measure is challenging and rigorous.

Every student’s initial KS2-KS4 target is moderated by comparing it with personalised national target setting data generated by:

  • CAT test data
  • Fischer Family Trust Aspire

The 5-year KS2-KS4 target is then broken down into our year-on-year targets.

Once set, targets are reviewed three times a year by the Deputy Headteacher, in consultation with subject leaders and SENCOs. If a student is consistently exceeding their initial target we consider them to have an accelerated growth capacity and their targets will be adjusted upwards. If a student is not meeting their expected target then an intervention programme is put in place in the first instance, targets are very rarely downgraded.

We recognise that our targets have a lower expectation of progress than is expected of mainstream students but the very nature of our students’ learning needs means that their retention of knowledge and skills is well below the national average and more curriculum time is needed to embed knowledge and consolidate learning. However we have every confidence that for the reasons outlined above our targets are aspirational and they have been judged to be so in our past two Ofsted inspections.


4. Expected progress

a. Expected Progress in Years 7-9

Standard Progress

We expect every student to progress from their benchmarked starting point at the beginning of Year 7 by a minimum of one sub-level per year through Years 7 to 9. We consider this to be good progress. Any student making more than one sub-level’s progress would be making outstanding progress.

Accelerated Progress

Should a student make outstanding progress in a subject over the course of a full academic year then they will be put on an Accelerated Progress ‘flight path’ for the subsequent year, this has an expectation of two sub-levels progress over the year.

Tables 1 and 2 of our Mapping Expected Progress document illustrate what expected progress would look like across KS3.


b. Expected progress in Years 10 & 11

As explained above KS4 targets are set in line with the grading system used for the qualification being followed eg. GCSE subjects use grades or 1-9, Entry Level Certificate subjects use levels 1-3, BTEC use Pass, Merit, Distinction etc.

At the start of Year 10 a student’s end of Year 9 curriculum levels are converted to start of KS4 equivalent grades. These equivalences have been arrived by analysing previous years’ performance data and can be seen in Tables 3 and 4 in our Mapping Expected Progress document.

Some subjects offer both GCSE and Entry Level courses. In assigning a student to the appropriate course consideration is taken of the growth capacity that student showed during Years 7-9. This is best exemplified by the following scenario:

  • Student A has an end of Year 9 level of 4b and showed an accelerated growth capacity during Years 7-9 (ie. progress of consistently more than one sub-level per year) indicating that they are capable of following a GCSE course.
  • Student B has an end of Year 9 level of 4b and showed a standard growth capacity (ie. progress of one sub-level per year) indicating that they are better suited to an Entry Level Certificate course.

Whichever qualification a student follows they are expected to progress by one grade in each of Years 10 and 11.

Tables 3 and 4 of our Mapping Expected Progress document illustrate what expected progress would look like through KS4.


c. Expected progress Key Stage 2 to Key Sage 4

Every student is also set KS2-KS4 targets in English, maths and science. As outlined earlier we arrive at these targets by assuming expected progress and then moderating this against data generated by CAT tests, Fischer Family Trust Aspire and CASPA. 

Some typical scenarios are outlined here:

  • Student A is benchmarked at level 2c at the start of Year 7 and shows a standard progress capacity. Her end of KS4 target is Entry Level Certificate level 2.
  • Student B is benchmarked at level 2c at the start of Year 7 and shows an accelerated progress capacity. His end of KS4 target is GCSE grade G.
  • Student C is benchmarked at level 3c at the start of Year 7 and shows a standard progress capacity. His end of KS4 target is Entry Level Certificate level 3.
  • Student D is benchmarked at level 3c at the start of Year 7 and shows an accelerated progress capacity. Her end of KS4 target is GCSE grade E.

Tables 5 of our Mapping Expected Progress document illustrate what expected progress from KS2 to KS4 would look like.

In all cases targets are reviewed termly and where a student is consistently exceeding expected progress they will be considered to have an accelerated progress capacity and more challenging targets will be set ie. two sub-levels, or qualification grades, per year.


5. Tracking progress

Subject leaders are responsible for moderating and recording assessment data within their subject area. Regular curriculum meetings provide a forum for sharing, discussing and moderating assessments.

Attainment data is recorded, tracked and monitored across the whole school using SIMS Assessment Manager with data updated and analysed termly. The targets of students who are consistently exceeding their targets will be reviewed at this point and intervention plans will be put in place for those who are not achieving expected progress. A full and final analysis of the progress of all students and the impact of any intervention is undertaken as part of the summer term analysis.


6. Tracking specific groups of pupils

SIMS Assessment Manager allows us to compare the performance of specific groups of students. We currently analyse the performance of the following groups as part of our termly evaluation:

  • Students in receipt of Pupil Premium
  • Looked After Children (LAC)
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Specific SEN eg. ASC, ADHD

It should however be noted that due to the relatively small size of some of these cohorts meaningful comparisons are not always possible and data must be interpreted with care.


7. Moderation & quality control

Moderation of assessments for each subject takes the following forms:

  • Our Castle Hill Curriculum Levels system has explicit curriculum descriptors that all teachers are familiar with.
  • Formative assessment tasks that address specific level descriptors are included in schemes of work.
  • All units of work have a summative assessment task.
  • Moderation of work is a feature of all curriculum meetings (at least one meeting every half-term).
  • Subject leaders carry out learning audits that involve lesson observation and work scrutiny.
  • Subject leaders of English, maths and science attend LA support meetings where best practice is discussed.

As mentioned previously we use a range of external data sources to benchmark and moderate our judgements:

Fischer Family Trust Aspire (FFT Aspire)

FFT Aspire provides key target setting and self-evaluation information. A key facility for us is the ability to generate targets for individual students based upon the school’s performance over the past three years.

Performance Tables

The Department for Education Performance Tables only take into account GCSEs and a small number of BTEC qualifications and focus on the expected performance of students in mainstream schools. Whilst many of our students do achieve GCSE and BTEC qualifications the relatively small number is such that, in line with all special schools, our Progress 8 measure is effectively meaningless. At the same time we also offer a wide range of other qualifications, such as Entry Level Certificates, Functioanl Skills and CLAiT which are not recognised in the Performance Tables. We tackle these problems in three ways:

  • Year-on-year comparison of KS4 Performance Tables data ie. performance of current Year 11 with last year’s. Although this has limited value due to our small cohort sizes (meaning it only takes one or two students to significantly skew data) broad trends are evident and we generally use the past three years’ performance data for comparative purposes in order to minimise the impact of ‘rogue’ data.
  • We carry out an annual Performance Tables Comparison in which we compare our performance with that of similar special schools across the northwest in parameters such as number of students achieving GCSE English and maths and number of students achieving at least one GCSE.
  • We assign points to all qualifications in line with the system used by the DfE prior to 2014. This takes account of all of the qualifications we offer and is another way of comparing each year group’s performance with that of previous cohorts. It has the advantage of including the progress made by our less able students who do not follow GCSE courses.


8. Reporting

Attainment and progress in meeting annual targets is reported to parents via:

  • Termly progress reports
  • An annual review report


For more information about school performance check out our Data Dashboard in the 'Information' section of this website.

The following flowchart summarises our approach to assessment. Assessment Overview