What makes a good assessment policy?

The report from the Commission on Assessment without Levels, published in September 2015, offers guidance to help schools in designing their own assessment policies. In order to help schools to better understand what makes a good assessment policy, we’ve summarised some key points from the report below.

  1. Define your assessment principles.According to the Commission, the starting point for any assessment policy should be the school’s principles of assessment. It should be clear what the aims of assessment are and how they can be achieved without adding unnecessarily to teacher workload. In particular, schools should ask:
  • Why are pupils being assessed?
  • What will the assessment measure?
  • What will the assessment achieve?
  • How will the assessment information be used? (see also point 3. below)
  1. Consider dividing your policy into the three main forms of assessment.Schools may wish to divide their assessment policy according to the three main forms of assessment:
  • in-school formative assessment– to evaluate pupils’ knowledge and understanding on a day-to-day basis and to tailor teaching accordingly;
  • in-school summative assessment– to enable schools to evaluate how much a pupil has learned at the end of a teaching period;
  • nationally standardised summative assessment– provides information on how pupils are performing in comparison to pupils nationally. The national curriculum tests at the end of KS1 and KS2 are an example.

To use each form of assessment to best effect, the Commission recommend that teachers and school leaders understand their various purposes.

  1. Outline the purpose of your assessment information.The Commission recommend that schools carefully consider the purpose of collecting assessment information and how the outcomes are intended to support teaching and learning.
  2. Ensure the policy supports children’s achievement first and foremost.The Commission emphasises that schools should not try to create a system that they think Ofsted inspectors will want to see; it should be one that works for pupils, with the sole aim of supporting their achievement.
  3. Ensure the assessment policy is inclusive of all abilities.According to the Commission, assessment policy and practice should be designed to promote the outcomes of all pupils, including those with special educational needs.
  4. Agree the responsibility for the policy.The Commission recommend that schools should be clear about whose responsibility it is to maintain and review the policy. The policy should also outline how the effectiveness of the assessment policy will be evaluated.
  5. Involve staff in the development of an assessment policy. The Commission suggest that the involvement of staff in the development of an assessment policy will help build strong links to teaching and learning.
  6. Keep up-to-date with assessment best practice.The Commission suggest that an assessment policy should outline how teachers will be kept up to date with developments in assessment practice and how they will be able to develop and improve their practice on a regular basis.
  7. Make assessment CPD a priority.The Commission has reiterated the importance of schools developing their staff’s assessment capabilities so that they become skilled and confident in assessing pupils’ learning.
  8. Evaluate the value of externally developed assessment products.The Commission recommend that schools consider the credibility and value of any products developed by external providers. An external resource should only be adopted if it presents the best way to support delivery of the school’s assessment policy.

The full report from the Commission on Assessment without Levels can be found here.


formative assessment, key stage 1, key stage 2, national tests, summative assessment

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