The report from the NAHT Commission on Assessment has just been published.
The decision of the NAHT to set up an independent commission on testing and assessment in schools, which I was asked to chair, is a consequence of the decision of the DfE, following a recommendation by the expert panel for the review of the National Curriculum, to abandon the use of levels and level descriptors in the assessment of school pupils. Two consequences followed: the first was uncertainty amongst many teachers about how they were to carry out the task of assessing pupils’ progress across and between school years; the second was a growing realisation of the need, as well as the opportunity, to carry out a thorough review of the role of assessment in schools. I congratulate the NAHT on rising to the latter challenge. This report is the first stage in this process. In view of the need to offer an approach to tackling the issues which teachers will face in September of this year, this can only be the first stage of the fuller review, which we hope will now engage the profession and relevant government bodies – the DfE, Ofsted and Ofqual. My opening remarks will be focused upon various headlines, all discussed more fully in the main text.
Those who cannot assess cannot teach.
Assessment is inevitably part of every teaching activity. “How is she getting on?” “Did he understand that?”
Assessment is therefore too important to be the sole preserve of national tests and assessments.
In good education, assessment is of the progress of the whole pupil throughout their educational journey.
Assessment is the means used by good teachers to evaluate that progress and diagnose the needs of the pupil.
True assessment is neither wholly formative, nor wholly summative; it is embedded in the classroom rather than an activity of reflection outside the classroom.
Assessment helps pupils engage more fully in their own development and learning.
A pupil responds better to new challenges if they grasp what is necessary for progress and why.
Assessment helps parents to understand and, as relevant, participate in their children’s educational journey.
Quite reasonably, parents want to know how their son or daughter is progressing, and how they can help.
Assessment helps head teachers and governors to plan strategically the use of the resources of the school.
If whole or part classes are not making reasonably expected progress, there could be a variety of causes, and dealing with the uncovered needs may require redeployment of resources in the school.
Assessment of individual pupils and school accountability are interdependent.
One critically important role of assessment is to help appropriate types of the accountability of schools to parents, governors, local authorities and government and tax payers.
Assessment includes externality and objectivity.
This is the main reason for the use of national testing procedures, and also developing the role of in-school, inter-school and external moderation of teacher assessment judgements.
Assessment skills are not sufficiently prioritised in either initial teacher education or continuing professional development.
There is an unjustified assumption at large that assessment is a natural intuitive skill possessed by all.
Assessment will benefit from the fast developing techniques of full pupil profiling which are being enhanced by information technology (IT).
We saw some good examples of schools exploiting this expanding technology for the benefit of all of the above. Finally, as September approaches,
There will be a mixed economy in most schools as they see current pupils through the final years of the old system and engage with the new curriculum. Schools are advised to evolve new structures, rather than try to cope with a barren landscape devoid of the old.
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