Following publication of their delayed response to the primary assessment and accountability consultation in March, the DfE have now published a set of core assessment principles to help schools prepare to implement new assessment arrangements for tracking pupil progress against the new National Curriculum. The document reminds schools that there will be no national system for doing this, but that schools will be expected to demonstrate (with evidence) their assessment of pupils’ progress so that they can keep parents informed, enable governors to make judgements about the school’s effectiveness and also to inform inspections by Ofsted.
The document states that ‘effective assessment systems’ should:
- give reliable information to parents about how their child, and their child’s school, is performing
- help drive improvement for pupils and teachers, and
- make sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation.
These three principles are then broken down further.
Sue Walton, assessment consultant and part of the Rising Stars Assessment advisory team has examined these carefully and tried to unpick and explain the implications of them for schools (see the comments in italics below).
Note that ‘assessment system’ is not defined. Given what follows, it appears to refer to a school’s complete assessment regime.
- Reliable information for parents
This is broken down into four principles:
- a) Allow meaningful tracking of pupils towards end of key stage expectations in the new curriculum, including regular feedback to parents.
‘Meaningful’ is not defined but it implies regular assessments are being made and that schools are tracking how pupils are progressing against the Programme of Study for both their year group and the Key Stage.
- b) Provide information which is transferable and easily understood and covers both qualitative and quantitative assessment.
It is not clear what is meant by ‘transferable’ here e.g. does it mean from teacher to teacher, from school to school or something else? Qualitative information could include a number of things including a pupil’s strengths and weaknesses and whether or not they are making the progress that they should be. In the absence of National Curriculum Levels schools will need to decide what quantitative information it is appropriate to collect and give to parents e.g. marks from tests and other assessments, average marks from the class.
- c) Differentiate attainment between pupils of different abilities, giving early recognition of pupils who are falling behind and those who are excelling.
It is interesting that this principle is under the information for parents heading rather than under the next one – perhaps this is an error! It implies that whatever system a school uses that it should be diagnostic so that teachers can provide support for pupils who are not on track and more challenge for those who are progressing quicker than expected.
- d) Are reliable and free from bias.
If schools are using external assessments they will need to check whether the producers have tackled this e.g. are the assessments accessible, are they suitable for girls and boys and for pupils from different backgrounds. Similarly, schools will need to ensure that their own assessments are also appropriate.
- Help drive improvement for pupils and teachers
There are three parts to this:
- a) Are closely linked to improving the quality of teaching.
Again, this principle means that assessments need to be diagnostic so that the outcomes can be used to inform teaching and learning.
- b) Ensure feedback to pupils contributes to improved learning and is focused on specific and tangible objectives.
The information that comes out of assessments needs to be able to inform next steps and not just report a summative judgement.
- c) Produce recordable measures which can demonstrate comparison against expected standards and reflect progress over time.
This seems to be about record keeping and being able to demonstrate to Ofsted and school governors that pupil attainment and progress is where it should be and that it is improving year on year.
- Make sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation
There are two sections to this one:
- a) Are created in consultation with those delivering best practice locally.
There is no indication as to how this might be achieved but it implies school collaboration (very much on the agenda at present) and is perhaps a reference also to any good practice exemplars that arise from the DfE’s Assessment Innovation Fund. There may be a role for Local Authorities here and for organisations such as Academy chains.
- b) Are created in consideration of, and are benchmarked against, international best practice.
Unhelpfully there is no indication at all as to how schools might do this, nor where pertinent information may be obtained. The exams regulator, Ofqual, is currently undertaking international research into assessments at the end of Key Stage 2 so this may prove to be a helpful starting point but currently there is no indication as to when this will be published.
Implications for schools
When putting together a system for assessment, schools will need to take these principles into account both for assessments they create themselves and for ones that they decide to use produced by third parties.
Find out more about how the Rising Stars New Curriculum Assessment Progress Tests support the DfE principles.
If more information becomes available about the principles and how to use them we will publish details on this website.