The scrapping by ministers of national curriculum levels has left schools with something of a quandary – what systems and methods to use to assess pupil progress and what impact these will have on their ability to improve standards?
Accountability is now at the heart of how schools operate. Everything is measured, weighed and given a value and then put in a column for public consumption, to be compared and analysed.
How you test and assess pupils, how you prepare them for public examinations, and how effective your methods are must now stand up to the highest scrutiny in today’s high-stakes climate.
Furthermore, schools accessing Pupil Premium funding will need to show what progress has been made in narrowing the gap in progress between pupils of different socio-economic backgrounds. Assessment will have a vital role to play in this process.
Of course, national curriculum levels were not the be-all and end-all and we should not look on them as such. There are many effective ways of assessing pupils and many schools and local authorities are currently working hard to find new and exciting ways of measuring progress.
What must stand out in all of these systems and methods, however, is that they be valid, robust, consistent and fit-for-purpose.
Earlier this year, the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA) carried out a small-scale pilot of a scheme that we hope will provide evidence of all these crucial facets. The Excellence in Assessment (Schools) programme involves the appraisal of schools’ own particular assessment procedures using a special tool, developed by us at the Institute, to check that they are all of the above.
Schools achieving the expected outcome will be accredited by the CIEA with the Excellence in Assessment (Schools) Award (EiA) – a sign that their assessment processes and procedures can be trusted. In time, similar accreditation schemes may be developed for colleges and other institutions.
Following a successful pilot in a small number of primary and secondary schools, the scheme is being rolled out in the autumn to 20 or so further schools around the country.
Participating schools reported that the process of meeting the criteria in itself helped them to focus their minds on assessment processes and procedures in a way they may not have done previously.
For example, one of the pilot schools noticed that some of its assessment procedures were not properly recorded even though teachers carried them out as a matter of course. But using a tool developed by the CIEA, it was able to identify this discrepancy and rectify it, creating a complete and coherent picture of its assessment practice.
For external accountability, such as Ofsted inspection, having this accreditation will show the inspection team that the school is being consistent and robust in the way students’ work is assessed.
Participating schools receive a consultation from a CIEA chartered educational assessor with follow-up advice, and are given access to the assessment process tool – or framework – which allows them to bring all of their assessment procedures together. This tool leads them through the whole process of how assessment should work in a school and shows up any gaps and shortcomings.
Schools that are able to show their processes are fit for purpose will be accredited and receive a certificate, with the option of purchasing a plaque to display in their school. The award is valid for three years in the first instance, after which there will be a review.
In this world of progress measures, accountability and narrowing the gap in achievement, it is important for schools to have a robust and rigorous assessment regime.
The EiA award aims to give teachers confidence in their work, knowing that their processes and procedures are joined up, coherent and transparent. It also ensures that the assessment processes used in their school are properly understood and adhered to by all staff.
Schools should not be afraid of developing their own assessment systems. In some ways, it is a sign of government’s faith in their abilities to do so that has led to where we are now. But they do need a quality assurance mechanism around their methods.
Further informationSchools that are interested in finding out more about EiA, or wish to participate in the next phase of the scheme, should contact the CIEA at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Rogers is chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors.