Teachers assess students' work continuously, and at the end of units of work, as well as at the end of each year. The continuous assessment is often referred to as formative assessment, whereas assessment that takes place at the end of a piece of work is usually referred to as summative assessment.

  • The purpose of formative assessment is to monitor students' learning, and provide ongoing feedback to staff and students. It is sometimes called assessment for learning. It helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses, can enable them to improve their self-regulatory skills so that they manage their education well, and it provides information to staff about the areas students are struggling with, so that sufficient support can be put in place.
  • Formative assessment can be teacher led, peer or self-assessment. Formative assessments have low stakes and usually carry no grade.
  • Feedback from formative assessment may be in the form of marks, comments or discussion, and these may be communicated in writing or verbally.
  • The aim of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of a section of work by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.
  • In Key Stages 4 and 5 (Years 10 - 13), we will normally use GCSE and A Level criteria, although sometimes it will be a mark out of a total, referenced to standardised mark schemes.
  • In Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) we use Stage Ladders for end of year summative assessment. In all subjects this will consider their learning throughout the year. In subjects where there is an end of year examination or equivalent, then we also use Stage Ladders to feedback on this.
    Summative assessments often appear to be high stakes and may be treated by the students as the priority over formative assessments.
  • Feedback from summative assessments is also used formatively by both students and staff to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent learning.

Subject leaders across the Russell Education Trust have worked collaboratively to draw up the KS3 Stage Ladders, which set out clear descriptors for what students know, and can do, as their attainment improves in each subject. Some subjects may use these descriptions of learning during the year, and some will assess units of work summatively using marks out of a total. 

There is one Ladder per subject, although there are multiple strands within the ladder for different skills (e.g. in Modern Foreign Languages where students are assessed on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills).


We expect students to make at least one stage of progress per academic year.  This means a student who is at Stage 2 on entry will be progressing well if they move to Stage 3 at the end of Year 7, Stage 4 at the end of Year 8, and Stage 5 at the end of Year 9. The attainment described in Stage 5 of the ladders below represents good progress for most students in Key Stage 3 and readiness to continue the subject to a good GCSE pass in Key Stage 4.

Stages do describe attainment at higher levels than this (up to Stage 7) and many of our students will make more than one stage of progress in some years, perhaps reaching Stage 6 or 7 before moving into Key Stage 4. These students will be well placed to achieve very high grades in their GCSEs.

Typical stages that the majority of students will reach are summarised below.

Stage Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9
6       High
5     High Typical
4   High Typical Support
3 High Typical Support  
2 Typical Support    
1 Support      

Please use the below links to access subject Stage Ladders for KS3: