Key stage 3 assessment

Following changes to the National Curriculum and the removal of statutory National Curriculum Levels the KS3 assessment system at Holmfirth High changed from September 2016. The changes came about after 18 months of work within school, discussion with other schools and consultation with the Holmfirth High school council and parent forum.

The model we have moved to is based on developing the key knowledge and skills required for success in KS4, similar to a mastery approach, so pupils have a deeper understanding of the curriculum in each subject. We wish to build a growth mind set culture amongst pupils, where they believe – ‘I can’t do yet rather than I can’t do.’

Baseline assessments

On entry to the school we collate baseline information on all pupils from KS2 teacher assessments and their KS2 SAT data.  This baseline assessment data is then used to group pupils into a pathway based on their ability and prior attainment. For subjects where KS2 data may be less useful in identifying prior skills such as Music, Art, Drama and Physical Education pupils will be assessed within lessons on entry to Holmfirth High School.

They will be assigned a pathway of  in each subject. The aim of this process is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each pupil to enable them to be taught in the most effective way and to make maximum progress. It will also give us a starting point from which to internally track pupil progress.

Assessments throughout KS3

All pupils are assessed regularly within lessons and through marking of classwork and homework. Regular verbal and written feedback is also given on how to improve work.

Three times per year you will receive a formal report on your child’s progress in each subject based on their starting pathway. Teacher assessments will be based on work completed so far and evidence may be drawn from project work, assessed classwork or homework, or formal assessments.

What do the pathways mean?

The table above gives an overview of the meaning of the pathways. In particular:

Pupils working below pathway E are working towards (W) the core curriculum for that particular year and still need to master skills and knowledge from the previous year.

Pupils working on pathway D/E are developing their understanding of the core curriculum for that particular year.

Pupils working on pathway C are secure in their understanding of the core curriculum for that particular year (i.e. working at national expectations).

Pupils working on pathway B are extending their understanding beyond the core curriculum for that particular year.

Pupils working on pathway A are mastering their understanding beyond the core curriculum for that particular year.

To give more detail to this, each subject has identified the key content and skills required within each year that will lead to success at GCSE. They have also produced brief pathway descriptors for their subject.

We have produced a KS3 Assessment booklet which gives this information for all KS3 subjects. We hope this will be useful for parents in understanding the skills and knowledge their child is developing and for supporting his or her education. This is available on the school website, via the parent portal and student dashboard under ‘KS3 assessment 2016’.

Holmfirth High School KS3 Pathway Descriptors

This booklet gives pathway descriptors for pupils at KS3 (Years 7-9) from September 2016.

Each subject has specified the core content, key skills and brief criteria for pathway A, C and E in each year. The aim of these descriptors is to support parents in understanding the pathway system and what their child is achieving in each subject. These loosely fit with the three assessment pathways for each year of Developing (E/D), Secure (C/B) and Extending (A). Furthermore, the pathway descriptors should help parents in identifying what their child needs to work on to improve the standard of their work.


The table below aims to illustrate how the pathways show a pupil is making progress.

Scenario 1 – Year 7 boy

This pupil has started on pathway C and is shown to be making expected progress in English, which means that he is gaining the appropriate skills and knowledge in year 7 to potentially gain a 5 or 4 at GCSE when he reaches key stage 4.

In Maths, the start point is on the C pathway too, but in contrast to English, he is making above expected progress, which means that he has moved up to the B pathway and has now got the potential to gain a 7 or 6 at GCSE when he reaches key stage 4. One of the main reasons for this is that his effort in class and homework scores are higher, which shows that he has a better work ethic and completes homework to a higher level in Maths, when compared to English.

Scenario 2 – Year 9 girl

This pupil has started on pathway A in both English and Maths. She has made expected progress to date in English which means she is developing the expected skills and knowledge in year 9 to potentially gain a 9 or 8 at GCSE when she reaches key stage 4. These skills and knowledge gained are at a deeper and higher level than in year 7 or year 8 within pathway A.

In Maths, she is working below expected progress to date which means she has moved down to pathway B and her skills and knowledge would suggest that she has the potential to gain a 7 or 6 at GCSE when she reaches key stage 4, unless she makes above expected progress in her next few assessments, and moves back in line with pathway A expectations. This could be done by improving her effort in class and completing homework to a higher standard.

You will notice that the table also refers to the new numerical GCSE grading system, which will be phased in from the summer of 2017 onwards.

The alignment between the old and new grades can be seen in the table and is also explained below:


  • Grade 9: top A* performers; around the top 3% nationally
  • Grade 7: equivalent to an A grade pass
  • Grade 5: equivalent to a high grade C/low grade B pass and comparable to a ‘good’ pass in the top-performing countries internationally.
  • Grade 4: equivalent to a C grade pass
  • Grade 1: the bottom of grade 1 is equivalent to the bottom of grade G

Target setting

At key stage 3, pupils will no longer be set end of year targets and instead will be encouraged to aim for the highest pathway possible. We want to encourage the mind-set where all pupils strive for excellence and a culture of ‘I can’t do yet’ rather than ‘I can’t do.’

 Formative feedback following classwork, homework and assessments will give guidance to pupils on what they need to do to improve their work. Further, the Attitude to Learning scores given on reports (see below) will also give an indication of whether a pupil is reaching his or her full potential.

Throughout the year, attainment will be tracked internally against the baseline assessment to ensure that those making expected progress are commended and intervention is put in place to support pupils where there is a concern over their progress.

Reporting to Parents

Three times a year parents will receive reports on pupil attainment and progress. Two of these will be Progress Reports and one will be a Full Report.

There is very little change to the structure of these reports from September 2016 onwards. They will include (for each subject):


  • Expected progress pathway for each subject
  • Progress made to date in each subject
  • Attitude to learning scores (effort/behaviour in class/homework)
  • Form Tutor Comment (Full report only)

Attitude to Learning

Effort in class