Changing Levels: Key Stage 3 Assessment Overview

I wrote a post a few months ago about the change to no longer using levels and the fact that, as Drama didn’t actually have any officially recognised levels anyway, we should be in a position to lead the way on the change to levels. Over the last few months I’ve been developing and creating a method of assessment using the idea of a system of grading rather than a system based on levels.

I’ve gone back to go forward. I’ve gone back to 2003 and the Drama In Schools document published by the Arts Council. Admittedly this document was published when I’d only been teaching a few years and this helped shape my way of thinking in drama. I have always been a teacher and practitioner far more interested in what can be learnt from the process of making drama and theatre rather than what can be learnt from using drama and theatre to explore a concept. I don’t want to hark back to a old argument of process versus product drama, but I am definitely in the camp of the later.

From the Drama In Schools document I’ve taken the process of Make, Performance and Respond (MPR) because I believe that these three parts of the theatre making process are so important and I’ve linked them to three areas of assessment which I think are integral to making a well rounded and strong drama student. That is ultimately what this Key Stage 3 Assessment Criteria is all about, it is ensuring that students are prepared to be good students of drama. Students who can utilise their communication, creative and negotiating skills to create a piece of drama which is good, in which they can portray and sustain a role, as well as demonstrate a knowledge of key terminology and then be able to respond to that performance in a constructive way confidently using key terminology to describe and evaluate the work of themselves and the work of others.

There aren’t any levels there anymore to define what that key terminology is or any quantifying statements about standards of performance. And to some extend (and at the risk of going off on a tangent) there hasn’t been either of these in the GCSE assessment criteria. None of them state a definition of what key movement and voice skills top band students should be using or to what quality their standard should be other than simple phrases such as “Outstanding”, “Excellent” or “Satisfactorily”.

What should be defining the key terminology and the standard of work is the curriculum you teach. Instead of saying that, for example, Still Images is a Level 3 basic skill whereas understanding Stanislavski’s Units and Objectives is a Level 7 skill, one needs to look at the GCSE specification for the guidance on what skills and knowledge you need to have embedded into the students before they start the course.

So we are not using levels, nor are we giving a definition of what a grade looks like.

So what are we doing instead? Something actually quite simple. One breaks the MPR down into 6 separate skills areas, 2 for Making, 2 for Performing and 2 for Responding.

The following is what is being given to the students and is therefore in student friendly language:


This area of assessment is focused on how you go about making drama in lessons. Part of this focus is on how you interpret the stimuli or scripts that you are given to create Drama from as well as focusing on your ability to communicate your ideas and how you work to develop the ideas of others. Another part of the focus examines your ability to reflect on the drama you are making and how improve your drama before it is performed. It focuses on how you are developing a drama that is for performance and you are focusing a the experience of the audience. It also looks at how you are using the key terminology for drama and how you use them to create a performance. For this section, you will receive two marks out of 7 in the following areas:

  • Participation in and contribution to group work (M1)
  • Understanding of key terminology (M2)


This area of assessment is focused on how you work in performance. The first part of the assessment focus is on your ability and accuracy in using the key terminology in the lesson to create a performance, whether that is still images, melodrama or naturalism. The second part of the assessment focus is you ability to use a range of movement and vocal skills to portray a role and then to sustain that role throughout a performance. For this section, you will receive two marks out of 7 in the following areas:

  • Portraying and sustaining a role (P1)
  • Application of key terminology (P2)


This area of assessment is focused on how you respond to the drama that both you and other students have made. One focus is on how you use key terminology to describe your work and the work of others. Another is how you use that key terminology to discuss what went well and suggest improvements of your own work and the work of others. For this section, you will receive two marks out of 7 in the following areas:

  • Use of keywords to either describe or evaluate the work of other people’s or their own work (R1)
  • Written evaluation of their own work (R2)

Each section has a mark out of 7 based on the evidence that can be seen by the teacher over a period of time:

  • No Evidence of it being done = 1
  • Very Little Evidence of it being done = 2
  • Some Evidence of it being done = 3
  • Evidence of it being done consistently = 4
  • Evidence of it being done thoroughly = 5
  • Evidence of it being done with very few problems = 6
  • Evidence of it being done without any concern = 7

The lowest possible mark is 7 and the highest is 42. The students are then ranked in order from the highest to lowest and that ranking is then converted to a Grade 2 – 9 system based on a quota established by the expected outcomes of the cohort concerned.

In the next few posts I will establish what the evidencing criteria actually looks like in general and specifically to the 6 areas of MPR and I shall be sharing the Excel Document that allows this to happen in a quick and efficient manner.

One thought on “Changing Levels: Key Stage 3 Assessment Overview

  1. This is brilliant and I hAve to agree with all you have said. I too based my levels on the arts council then merged them with a ks3 music and English curriculum levels. However I hadnt got as far as a method of grading and I believe you have found an answer. I also find it difficult without any quantifying guidance as satisfactory for one may be good for another. I would be very interested in any other view points from reading draft specs my ks3 curriculum needs tweaking but not an entire overhaul. I would be interested in knowing what you study at ks3 and which board this would eventually feed in to. Many thanks for a brilliant post.

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