KS3 NC Levels and spreadsheets

In my ongoing quest to get back down to basics with the KS3 NC for ICT I have been looking at how we deliver spreadsheets.  In keeping with the ‘back to basics’ theme I have looked at the level descriptors that I feel can be used with a spreadsheet topic and edited some of them so that they make more sense.  I also arranged them into the levels so that some sequence might become clear.  The result of this was the following:


  • predict what will happen in a model or simulation based on my decisions
  • exploring the model or simulation to see patterns and relationships
  • input of poor quality data = output of poor quality data


  • what happens when I change a variable


  • use a model to make predictions
  • Change the rules in a model
  • compare output of a model with information from other sources
  • ask complex questions to test a hypothesis


  • Design a model including procedures and variables to meet a need


  • Evaluate a model by looking at the situation which it was developed for
  • Evaluate a model by looking at how efficient it is, how easy it is to use and how appropriate it is for the purpose it was designed for

I then also looked to see if I could include other descriptors from different parts of the programme of study when teaching spreadsheets.  I ended up with the following list:

Fundamentals and organisation


  • Use sensible folders and file names to save work


  • Find and open work saved in logical / sensible folders and file names
  • Use ICT safely
  • Use ICT responsibly


  • Create a portfolio of evidence that is structured logically

Audience and Purpose


  • I can plan my work

Reflection and evaluation


  • Reflect critically on own work and then improve it


  • Review my work

Next up is to put down in writing exactly what ‘teaching spreadsheets’ actually means.  I will post shortly on how I arived at a list of topics that I believe should be included.

KS3 ICT “I Can” statements – Part 2

My intention was never to reinvent the wheel; however, I couldn’t see a better way of understanding the KS3 attainment targets and levels other than pulling them apart and starting again.  My last post explains the trouble I went to in doing this.  I then rejigged the requirements under more useable headings and then into the appropriate year groups.  From these, I created what I think is a useable spreadsheet clearly showing when and where each target can be delivered (feel free to comment / criticize / amend).

The intention as mentioned in Part 1 of this ramble was to also rewrite the statements and then to create a resource bank that I and other teachers could dip into. During my research online, looking for examples where these statements had been rewritten I came across Complete ICT KS3 by Steve Rutter at Pearson Publishing. This seems to do exactly what I was aiming to achieve, which brings me back to not wanting to reinvent the wheel.

I shall be playing with the demo version of the software and also getting others in my department to do the same. If it does what it says on the tin, they I shall purchase and feedback about it on this blog.

If anybody reading this already uses the software, please leave a comment as I cannot find any examples of teachers that have actually used it!

KS3 ICT “I Can” statements Part 1

Further to my post above I have a been looking at the KS 3 attainment targets and redrawing them along the lines of Claire and Ian so that they are more user friendly.  Initially I looked at the ICT Curriculum at the QCDA where the attainment targets originally come from.  These are very bland statements that do not really help planning; however, as they form the basis of the expectations of what my pupils should be able to do, it is certainly a starting place.  I then decided that I needed a methodical approach to how I created something that would not only be useable by me, but also by others within my school and also anyone outside of my school that wanted to use it!  The steps I followed can be broken down as (sorry to be so detailed – finding this blog a great way of getting my head around the project!)

  1. Type each of the statements into a google spreadsheet using the levels as subheadings
  2. Colour code each statement so that the contents under one level were the same colour.
  3. Print out the spreadsheet
  4. Cut up the printed spreadsheet so that each statement could be moved around.
  5. Without having any preconceived ideas of headings, rearrange the statements so that they are grouped with similar statements
  6. I then came up with individual headings based on these groups
    1. Fundementals & organisation
    2. Audience & Purpose
    3. Reflection & Evaluation
    4. Spreadsheets, simulations & modelling
    5. Databases
    6. Sequencing instructions
    7. System design
    8. ICT in society
  7. Finally I rearranged the original spreadsheet so that it reflected these new headings – CSL ICT Curriculum Map KS3
I have still have three more things to do with this project:
  1. Rewrite statements where appropriate so that they make more sense to the teacher / pupil
  2. Put statements according to year groups to indicate when the statement should be covered
  3. Create a resource bank along the lines of Claire Lotriet on her tweecher blog titled ‘creating a new ICT curriculum” and Ian Addison’s site ICT Planning. 
I will keep you posted!

NC Levelling vs Standardised tests (goalonline, Yacapaca) or both?


As the Head of an ICT department that covers Nursery through to Year 11, planning and assessment can sometimes get quite difficult.  I teach Y8 upwards, but have wonderful co-ordinators for KS2 and 3.  We have tried to establish consistency throughout each key stage so that a child’s progress can be more easily measured; however, the school’s leaders do not always agree on this same need for consistency.


We are not tied by the National Curriculum as we are an Independent School and as such have, in my 10 years at the school, endeavoured to look at the NC Levels and where possible make our own judgements about what we should be teaching and how these topics should be taught.  That was until last year!  With an inspection looming, school leaders decided that we should introduce levelling into KS2.  OK, not essentially a problem, apart from the fact that the levels required were those of the NC and therefore did not reflect accurately what was being achieved in our school.  At times we would be covering work that wasn’t on the NC level and this couldn’t be judged, whilst other times, we consciously omitted some elements and therefore fell down when assessing against that attainment target.

At the end of the last academic year, my KS2 co-ordinator produced levels for SMT that were her best judgement of what the pupils had achieved; however, these where questioned as they seemed higher than the comparable English, Maths and Science levels.  A compromise was reached where some levels were reduced!

Standardised key skills tests – goalonline

In June of last year, at extremely short notice, we were told that the students would be sitting ‘key skills’ tests online using a company called goalonline (owned by EDI).  Again, not a problem as useful data about a pupils progress can only be a positive thing.  Against better judgement, the tests were not trialled in the school and went live immediately, causing huge headaches.  In English, Maths and Science the tests ran relatively smoothly, although the time allocated was too short which meant that pupils rushed, although the tests in these subjects could be saved so that the pupil could return to the test and carry on from where they left off.  The ICT test was completely different:  pupils were expected to complete 40 questions in 40 minutes!  They could not save their work so were very rushed for time.  Emulation software was used that did not look or feel anything like MS Office that the pupils used.  Several questions were difficult to interpret, meaning that it was not the pupils’ ICT skills that were being judged.  We use a skills based curriculum for ICT, whilst the test also focussed on the ‘theory’ elements.

Standardised levelling tests – yacapaca

Despite these goalonline tests being taken in June, I did not receive the results from them until October.  Due to my lack of confidence in the results that I expected, I decided to seek another test (I know, possibly not the wisest thing to do!).  My option this time was Yacapaca and the KS3 assessment which is multiple choice based.  In hindsight, this again did not test a pupils skills but rather there knowledge of different terms and definitions.  The tests ran much more smoothly than goalonline, although did take 1.5 40 minute lessons as the site says that to get accurate results each level needs to be done twice.  The results that we got back did not correlate with the ones from goalonline or indeed our own levelling!  Some pupils scored higher and some lower with very few scoring consistent levels.

Interpretation of the results

In the space of a couple of months I had received three sets of conflicting results from three different methods of levelling.  My (possibly over simplistic) conclusion was that the tests, apart from being a huge interruption to my pupils learning, did not test what the students had been taught.  As a result of this, the pupils could not possibly score favourably as they were being assessed on work that they hadn’t done and not what they had done.  I would expect my end of KS2 pupils to mostly be scoring L5.  The most common levels were 3 and 4.

Where next?

My immediate reaction was that as the school wanted to achieve statistically better NC levels, I should revert back to ensuring that our schemes covered only what was contained in the NC attainment targets.   This would be a step too far as it would mean, in my opinion, that we could no longer teach some skills and would be stuck with others that we didn’t want to include.  Before making any solid decisions, I opened the NC attainment targets again to see exactly what they said.  As everyone here knows, they are quite vague and can be interpreted in many different ways.  What I needed to do was to rewrite them in such a way that they would be much easier to understand both by the pupil and the teacher.  The rewritten statements should also lend themselves so that they can be identified directly in our SoW.

The power of twitter

When I put my concerns about rewriting these statements on Twitter @ianaddison advised that his school “found the NC levels hard to follow, so we made up new ones (sort of based on the originals).”  Ian also sent me the link for his great site ICT Planning which has this introduction The purpose of this site is to give teachers an overview of different tools throughout the school and how they can be used to achieve objectives and levels. Although this is aimed at the teachers within my school, it has been made public so that others can use it as well.”  @dan_bowen also suggested a tool that he had created for levelling and I am keen to discuss further with him exactly how he does this – watch this space!


Looking through Google Reader last night using FlipBoard I came across a post by Claire Lotriet on her tweecher blog titled ‘creating a new ICT curriculum.”  Here, Claire has kindly shared her ICT curriculum map as a very easy to understand table of “I Can” statements.  Like Ian, she has also started a resource bank for her school which again, she has kindly shared online.


There is incredible support to be found on twitter and on different Blogs, showing that many teachers have been, are going or about to go through similar situations to ourselves.  This has lifted my spirits and inspired me to move forwards with creating our own descriptors rather than changing our curriculum (although I will take a close look at that as well!)

  1. I feel that rather than foolishly matching our curriculum to standardised tests, I must first establish exactly which bits of the NC we wish to keep and which additional ideas we wish to introduce.
  2. I am happy with the idea of levelling as a means to demonstrate the progression of a pupil but not as the only method of assessment.
  3. I need to convince SMT that this is the best route forward and that it would hold up in an inspection (I truly believe that it will!).
  4. I need to complete “I can” statements for KS3
  5. I need to borrow / amend ideas from Ian, Claire and Dan if they allow
  6. I need to closely match the “I can” statements to our SoW.
  7. I need to borrow / amend / add ideas from existing resource banks created by Ian and Claire if they allow
  8. Most importantly, I need to share my ideas!