Getting to Grips with Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP)

Assessing Pupils' Progress image

What the resource is:
The Assessment for Learning Strategy was launched in May 2008 by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and other bodies, and runs for three years to develop Assessment for Learning (AfL) in all schools. This pamphlet describes the process of Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP): how judgements about a pupil's attainment can with confidence be tied into the National Curriculum levels, tracked over time to assess their progress, and appropriate intervention made. APP uses national criteria which had been trialled in pilot schools before the launch. Though the DCSF has not made APP compulsory, all schools are being encouraged to adopt it as soon as is feasible and cease using other schemes of AfL.


The pamphlet describes the three stages which make up APP (explained in more detail in the Focus section below). Resources for APP are available in English and mathematics at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, and in science and ICT at KS3.


The introduction includes a summary of the three types of materials which are available on the National Strategies website:

  • Assessment Guidelines, which give the criteria for National Curriculum levels and can be used to record individual pupil attainment: the levels are divided into individual Assessment Foci (AF), e.g. science has five AFs, one being ‘Using investigative approaches', and English has 4 AFs, one being ‘Deduce, infer or interpret information, events or ideas from texts'.
  • The APP handbook, giving guidance for teachers on APP
  • The Standards Files: these are to be used as exemplars of assessment opportunities and can be used for standardisation when levelling pupils' work. These are detailed and extensive, and it would take some time in getting to grips with them.

The pamphlet emphasises the advantages and benefits of using APP.


The aims of the resource:
The main aim is to inform and encourage teachers to use classroom assessment and link it to the National Curriculum levels to track individual pupil's progress and use appropriate intervention strategies to improve performance by implementing the APP approach.

Key  focus:
The key focus is on explaining the three steps of APP:

  1. Consider evidence. This stage involves choosing appropriate curriculum opportunities to collect evidence to build a profile of pupil attainment. The Standards File gives numerous examples which can be used.
  2. Review the evidence. Using the Assessment Guidelines sheets which give the NC levels and AFs for each subject, make a judgement using the pupils' assessed work against these criteria to give a profile of their learning over time.
  3. Making a judgement. Using the Assessment Guidelines sheets to summarise pupils' attainment, a judgement is made of their National Curriculum level in that subject. The level can be qualified by descriptors: high, secure or low. (Note that sublevels of ‘a,b,c' play no part in APP).


The following points are made:

    • Schools which have AfL in place with associated tracking systems achieve the highest rate of pupil progress and are successful in using intervention strategies.
    • All schools are being encouraged to use APP, which should be the only system running in the school replacing all other AfL initiatives.
    • APP informs curriculum planning and aids transition. Pupils know where they are, where they need to get to and hence have an increased stake and interest in their own learning.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The Assessment for Learning Strategy is promoted by the DCSF, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), National Strategies and the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors. Before launching in May 2008, the Strategy was piloted in schools; no details of the numbers or types of schools involved are given.


The pamphlet is concise, to the point and easy to read and understand.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
As the DCSF have the intention of eventually having APP in all schools, it is obviously important that ITE tutors/mentors, especially in the core subjects, are knowledgeable about it. The National Strategies website provides links to the Assessment Guidelines (which gives an outline of the National Curriculum levels and Assessment Foci) and to the Standard Files, which are extensive in their provision of exemplifying work at all levels. The pamphlet, website and the links will provide a wealth of resources to be used in lectures/tutorials for ITE students.


The relevance to ITE students:
AfL has been increasing in importance and credibility over the last few years in schools. It has been found to be very successful in raising pupil progress. Now the DCSF intends to encourage a common system of AfL, APP, into all schools. ITE students are highly likely to meet it in their partner schools. It is a tool to be used in the classroom and underpins most lessons, so the resources in the pamphlet and website will be relevant and useful.


Reviewed by:

John Pearson