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Castle Hill High School

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 (Years 7-9)

At Castle Hill we have chosen to adopt 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.

How this works

National Curriculum content is broken into levels which progress from 1 through to 6.

In order to show students’ mastery of the knowledge and skills within a level and the depth of learning achieved, each curriculum level is sub-divided into three sub-levels, c-a, which equate to emerging, developing and secure. The following example shows how a student would progress through level 4:

Level 4c: Emerging – the student is familiar with, and has a 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 who has achieved level 4a would progress to level 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 (Developing) in English then we mean that they have a good grasp of the level 4 curriculum and are working on becoming more consistent in applying skills and knowledge.

Descriptors of the subject knowledge and skills covered at each curriculum level in all subjects can be found here:

Castle Hill Curriculum Levels 

We sometime shave a small number of students who are working below level 1. In line with the 'Standards & Testing Agency’s guidance, Pre-key stage 1: Pupils Working Below the National Curriculum Assessment Standard', we have chosen to use pre-key stage standards to record and assess such pupils. The standards progress from Standard 1 to Standard 4, a pupil who had achieved Standard 4 would progress to our Castle Hill Curriculum Level 1c.

2. Qualifications curriculum (Years 10-13)

From Year 10 onwards students begin nationally accredited qualifications in all subjects. Our current suite of qualifications includes GCSE, BTEC, Entry Level Certificate, Functional Skills, Duke of Edinburgh Award and ASDAN all of which have their own grading systems. We therefore measure attainment, track progress and set targets using the appropriate qualification grades.

3. Benchmarking students

We receive end of Key Stage 2 assessment data from our feeder primary schools. 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 end of Key Stage 2 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 end of Year 6 assessments 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 few weeks of Year 7. In the first instance students undertake the following assessments:

  • a cognitive abilities test (CAT)
  • accredited English and maths assessments
  • assessments in individual subjects

The outcomes of these assessments are then triangulated 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 subject leaders (English and maths), form teachers and the KS3 SENCO are all consulted as part of the benchmarking process.

Students who join us post-Year 7 are benchmarked in a similar way.

4. 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.

5. 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 Years 7-9.

b. Expected progress in Years 10 & 11

As explained above Key Stage 4 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 at 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 Certificate 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 qualification grade in each of Years 10 and 11.

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

Mapping Expected Progress

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 and Fischer Family Trust Aspire.

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 1.
  • 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 2.

Table 5 of our document illustrates what expected progress from KS2 to KS4 would look like.

Mapping Expected Progress

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 acquisition of 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 all Ofsted inspections.

6. 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.

7. 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 and end of year evaluations:

  • Students in receipt of Pupil Premium
  • Looked After Children (LAC)
  • Ethnic minority students
  • Girls and boys

It should however be noted, and is acknowledge by Ofsted, 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. We are in the fortunate position of being able to analyse data at the individual student level rather than focusing on groups of students.

8. 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.
  • All qualifications have published grade descriptors.
  • Standardised formative assessment tasks that address specific level descriptors are included in schemes of work.
  • All units of work have some form of levelled summative assessment.
  • Moderation of work is a feature of curriculum meetings (at least one meeting every half-term).
  • External moderation of some sort is a feature of all qualifications offered.
  • Subject leaders carry out learning audits that involve lesson observation and work scrutiny.
  • Subject leaders of English and maths 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 and Functional Skills 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. As less information is now published by the Department for Education this comparison is now restricted to a comparison of Progress 8 and Attainment 8 measures.
  • We carry out an in-depth analysis of end of Key Stage 4 performance in all qualifications. As part of this process we assign points to all qualifications in line with the system used by the Department for Education 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.

9. Reporting

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


For more information about school performance check out our Performance Data page of this website. 

The following flowchart summarises our approach to assessment:

Assessment Overview