Devise assessment systems ‘for pupils, not inspectors’

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

“Schools should not seek to devise a system that they think inspectors will want to see; it should be one that works for pupils, with the sole aim of supporting their achievement.”

The above is taken from the long-awaited final report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels, which has sought to reassure schools as they implement new assessment systems.

The Commission, which was ordered by Department for Education and finally published last week, has made it clear that Ofsted “will not expect to see any particular type of assessment” and clarified that schools will not be penalised by inspectors if they are still developing their new assessment systems.

The removal of national curriculum levels has come alongside the introduction of the new curriculum in England and means that from this term the old levels are no longer being used for statutory assessments. Schools are now expected to implement their own systems of in-school assessment.

The Commission’s 51-page report does not prescribe a specific model for in-school assessment but sets out purposes and principles of effective assessment and offers guidance for schools on assessment policies, data collection/reporting, and the use of external assessment systems.

A key concern for school leaders has been how new assessment systems will fair under Ofsted inspection and the Commission has sought to allay any fears.

The section on inspection and accountability within the report has been compiled in conjunction with Ofsted and says that inspectors will look at “the effectiveness of a school’s curriculum and assessment system in terms of the impact on pupils’ achievement through the key judgement areas of the Common Inspection Framework”.

It continues: “Ofsted is very clear that unnecessary or extensive collections of marked pupils’ work are not required for inspection purposes. It is also clear that it does not expect performance data to be presented in a particular format. Data should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of its pupils.

“Pupils’ work will of course continue to be an important consideration when evaluating outcomes for pupils and the effectiveness of teaching and learning.”

It underlines that Ofsted “will not expect any particular data outputs from a school’s assessment system”. Also, inspectors “will not expect to see any particular type of assessment system”. The report adds: “It is important that each school develops a system that is consistent with its own curriculum and supports effective teaching and learning.”

It also says that schools will not be penalised if they are still developing new assessments when inspected: “Inspectors recognise that schools are at different stages in the development of assessment without levels, and will take this into account when considering how schools are monitoring the progress of pupils. Inspectors will want to understand how pupil progress is being assessed, and how the chosen systems are benefiting teaching and learning.”

The Commission has also called for the development of a training module on assessment for both school leaders and Ofsted inspectors to ensure “a shared understanding of the principles and purposes of assessment” and how good practice can be demonstrated in schools.

Responding to the Commission’s report, the Department for Education (DfE) stated: “It is right that the Commission has not prescribed a specific model for in-school assessment. We believe that schools are best placed to determine what type of system will work for them.

“We strongly endorse the Commission’s view that schools and Ofsted inspectors should have a shared understanding of good practice in assessment and of what is required to demonstrate it. We will investigate the best options for providing a suitable training course for use by schools and Ofsted inspectors.”


by Russell Hobby, National Association of Head Teachers

“Teachers have been waiting for this report for some time. Too long. The report makes six sensible and clear recommendations which send a clear message to schools and to government about ‘life after levels’.

“Most crucially, the pressures of accountability cannot be allowed to crush this opportunity before it gets started. As the report says ‘schools should not seek to devise a system that they think inspectors will want to see; it should be one that works for pupils, with the sole aim of supporting their achievement.’

“This is somewhat easier said than done. As long as schools are called upon to provide data to predict future performance or to justify current progress, they will always be looking over their shoulder.

“The report echoes and references our own Commission’s findings that the quality of assessment training is currently too weak and reiterates the importance of schools taking up opportunities to train staff in assessment. We agree that any government review of initial teacher training (should) ensure that assessment is included in the core content for teacher training.

“It is encouraging to read that the commission wants any new system of assessment to be realised without ‘adding unnecessarily to teacher workload’.”


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