“Life after levels is primarily a curriculum issue not a data issue. I worry that too many schools are rushing to create new labels which don’t actually mean anything” @LeadingLearner

The RE community is struggling and debating with the question of what life without levels will look like. Some schools are adopting the GCSE grade to replace the level using sub categories of establishing, developing and emerging. The idea of ‘emerging progress in RE.doesn’t sit too comfortably with my educational philosophy and, for me we need some more thought on how we connect the major concept and schemes.

In our TLC life without levels we have thrashed around a number of ideas one of which has been SOLO taxonomy. SOLO is an acronym for the structure of the Observed Learning Outcome developed by University academics, Biggs and Collins.

For instance, thisis how I have used SOLO taxonomy ito plan a year 7 lesson on baptism.

Baptism lesson plan

In my experience SOLO taxonomy has become a really interesting planning tool in measuring progress in lessons. However does it answer the 7 questions proposed by Michael Tidd to evaluate any replacement assessment system.

  1. Can it be shared with students?
  2. Is it manageable and useful for teachers?
  3. Will it identify where students are falling behind soon enough?
  4. Will it help shape curriculum and teaching?
  5. Will it provide information that can be shared with parents?
  6. Will it help to track progress across the key stage?
  7. Does it avoid making meaningless sub divisions?

On reflection probably no single system can do all that but perhaps by combining a system such as SOLO taxonomy along with clear learning objectives we might just be on the right lines. The work of Joanne Harris from Broughton High School combines the learning objectives purposed by the RE Education Council or England and Wales with SOLO taxonomy.


Remember though that learning is messy and unpredictable My favorite metaphor for learning is Robert Siegler’s ‘overlapping waves’ model; the tide may be coming in, but individual waves roll in and recede unpredictably.”. ASDavid Didau explains ‘Levels, ladders, thermometers, graphs are all metaphors. They’re meant to help us to think about something so complex and mysterious it makes the mind boggle.

Perhaps it will be impossible to develop an assessment system which we can agree accurately measure individual progress but we can effectively plan for learning to take place and have a clear idea of what learning we are looking for.


Biggs, J.B., & Collis, K.F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome). New York: Academic Press.