Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Fifth Special Report

Appendix 1

Government's response to the Third Report from the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Session 2007-08


1.  The Children, Schools and Families Committee published the report of its inquiry into Testing and Assessment on 13 May 2008. This is the Government's response. Paragraph numbers relate to the Conclusions and Recommendations section of the report.

2.  The Government strongly agrees with the Committee's conclusions on the importance of national testing, to help teachers to focus on ensuring that every pupil can achieve their full potential. The Committee highlights the importance of teacher assessment. The Government published its Assessment for Learning (AfL) Strategy in May, supported by £150 million over the next three years. This makes an offer of professional development for every school, and will help to strengthen teacher assessment and ultimately ensure that all teachers have the very best understanding of where their pupils are in their learning, to allow them to tailor their teaching appropriately. Support for AfL is also at the heart of the Making Good Progress pilots, alongside piloting a new approach to testing through single level tests and additional, one-to-one support for pupils who need it. The Government also welcomes the Committee's endorsement of the assessment approach to the vocational and general element of Diplomas.

3.  The Committee's report is clear about the importance of accountability to ensure that all pupils are being properly supported; and welcomes the creation of Ofqual to ensure rigorous standards are maintained. The Government is not persuaded that there are inherent problems in using National Curriculum testing for the three purposes of measuring pupil attainment, school and teaching accountability, and national monitoring. Decoupling these individual uses of the National Curriculum tests could confuse accountabilities and add to the burden on schools.

4.  The Committee raised an important issue about "teaching to the test". The Government has never encouraged "teaching to the test", nor do we accept that increases in national test results are the result of "teaching to the test". We will consider providing guidance to schools to reinforce good practice and to re-emphasise our position that excessive time spent on test preparation would be unacceptable. As there is little information on parents' and pupils' views of testing and assessment, we are currently considering how we could gather better evidence.

5.  The Committee's Report also highlights the importance of ensuing that schools' performance is not judged narrowly against national test data only. The Government agrees, and will be consulting on school-level indicators of wellbeing, as set out in the Children's Plan. We will also look at how the presentation of the Assessment and Attainment Tables can be improved to make them more accessible, as suggested by the Committee.

The need for national testing (Recommendation 1)

6.  We welcome the Committee's recognition that national testing has a valuable role and its endorsement of the principle of accountability at every level of the education system. National tests provide objective, reliable and consistent information about the attainment and progress of every child in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science, enabling valid comparisons to be made between the performance of pupils and groups of pupils, schools and local authorities. Parents and pupils are key stakeholders and the Children's Plan sets out our commitment to establish their views on our key policies, of which assessment is one.

7.  We welcome the Committee's judgment that there is excellent teaching in our schools. Evidence from inspections has shown that the quality of teaching has improved alongside improvements in test and examination results.

The purposes of national testing (Recommendations 2, 4, 21 and 22)

8.  The central purpose of National Curriculum tests is to provide pupils, parents, schools, the Government and the public with an accurate measure of attainment for every pupil in the core subjects at the end of Key Stages 2 and 3. The Government does not believe that there is any necessary or pre­determined limit on the number of uses that can be made of this information; indeed imposing such a limit would not be sensible, and likely to impose new burdens on schools. Rather than setting an arbitrary limit to the uses made of test data, what is required is that an informed judgment is made in each case about the fitness for purpose of test results data in the specific context, and about other possible sources of information.

9.  The Committee identifies three broad uses of test result data: measuring pupil attainment; school and teacher accountability; and national monitoring. It is the Government's clear view that test result data is fit to support each of these three important uses:

  • National tests provide objective, comparable information about every child. This data complements teachers' own assessments about how each child is progressing based on evidence gathered day-to-day. In the round, assessment data supports schools and teachers to help children to progress and to achieve their best. This is the most important use of national test information: the other two uses exist to support this vital work;
  • National test results also provide reliable, comparable information on schools' performance and, together with evidence from Ofsted and schools' self-evaluation, form the basis of school accountability to parents and to the taxpayer. National testing results are the basis for calculating progression measures, value added and Contextual Value Added (CVA) scores. In this respect, they are also a key tool for headteachers and Governing Bodies to use in comparing the performance of their school against others;
  • The third use is one in which test data has a unique function; it provides information on national standards and measures attainment against national Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets.

In his evidence to the Committee, Ken Boston confirmed that the tests are fit for purpose.

10.  The Government agrees with the Committee that test results do not, and cannot, provide a complete picture of a pupil's or a school's performance. Testing focuses on the core subjects of English, mathematics and science, as those subjects underpin the rest of the curriculum and so hold the key to children's future success in study and in the world of work beyond. That is why these subjects are also the main focus of the target-setting process. High standards in the core subjects must be a key objective for every school. But the Government is clear that other areas of the curriculum, and other sources of information on a pupil's progress and development, are also very important.

Targets, and the consequences of high-stakes uses of testing (Recommendations 3, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 17 and 20)

11.  The Government welcomes the Committee's endorsement of the importance of effective assistance for children who struggle to meet expected standards, but it does not accept that the current system of targets puts the system out of balance. The accountability system for schools, including the setting of targets as well as the tests themselves, the Achievement and Attainment Tables and Ofsted inspections, has contributed to the highest standards ever achieved at primary and secondary levels. The Government agrees that the pursuit of higher standards is not about numerical targets. Targets, and their use in the accountability system, are just a means by which we move towards the objective of equipping pupils with the skills and knowledge they need.

12.  The Committee raises "teaching to the test" as a key concern. The Government does not accept that increases in national test results are the result of "teaching to the test". The term is used to cover a broad range of possible practice in different schools, from recapitulating on skills that children need to internalise and hone, after initial learning, to repeated practise of test questions and learning test technique. A better understanding of school practice would be helpful, and we are therefore considering how best we can gather further evidence in this area with a view to providing guidance to schools to reinforce good practice and to re­emphasise our position that excessive time spent on test preparation would be unacceptable.

13.  The Committee also noted that some of its witnesses believed that testing was stressful for children, but it did not reach any specific conclusion. As the Minister of State for Schools and Learners said in his evidence session with the Committee, the Government is keen to understand more about parental and pupil views of testing and assessment, and we are currently considering how best to collect better evidence than is currently available.

14.  As noted above, the Government believes it is right that national testing should focus on core subjects. Nonetheless, schools are statutorily required to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum which:

  • promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and society; and
  • prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.

15.  There is no reason for testing to result in an unbalanced, narrow curriculum or uninspiring teaching. The breadth of the curriculum and the quality of teaching are both entirely within the control of the school and the teacher. There is no evidence that good test results need be obtained at the expense of the broader curriculum or of engaging teaching. Successful schools combine both high attainment and a rich, varied curriculum and each contributes to the other. Literacy and numeracy can be taught in and through other subjects; teaching the core subjects in the context of a broad and rich curriculum is what we want for every child. If children are taught the curriculum well, then they will do well in the tests.

16.  Evidence from Ofsted also demonstrates this. The majority of Ofsted inspection reports about schools judged to be outstanding describe schools which have a broad and balanced curriculum and good or outstanding achievement and attainment. Ofsted's report on The curriculum in successful primary schools (October 2002) identified schools

"which achieve what many others claim is not possible. They have high standards in English, mathematics and science, while also giving a strong emphasis to the humanities, physical education and the arts."

17.  The Government supports schools in the provision of a broad and rich curriculum in a number of ways. For example:

  • the new secondary curriculum offers schools exciting opportunities to increase engagement and motivation by providing a wider range of relevant learning experiences for young people. Schools are expected to offer additional curriculum opportunities outside the classroom, designed to enhance teaching, learning and engagement with the subject areas;
  • in the Children's Plan we announced our intention that, no matter where they live, or what their background, all children and young people should be able to get involved in top quality cultural opportunities in and out of school;
  • £332 million will be invested in music education during 2007-11 and, by 2011, all primary children will have had an opportunity to learn a musical instrument; and
  • the PE & Sport Strategy is aiming to offer five hours of PE and sport a week, during and after the school day, to all 5-16 year olds, supported by £783 million over the next three years.

18.  In order to encourage a more equitable focus on improving outcomes for pupils performing below national expectations (and stretching those who are most able), as indicated in the Education White Paper, Higher Standards, Better Schools For All (October 2005), we now have a pupil progress measure. The interaction between this new progression target and the attainment targets measuring the percentage of pupils who have passed a particular threshold is important. For some pupils, often because they have started a Key Stage behind their peers, reaching nationally expected levels is particularly challenging. By introducing a progression target alongside the traditional end of Key Stage attainment targets, we are helping schools to focus on outcomes for all pupils, regardless of their prior attainment, while continuing to recognise the importance of children reaching the expected levels, where they can do so. This, alongside personalised teaching and learning approaches, will help to ensure that we have the right incentives in the system to increase attainment and narrow gaps at the same time.

Use of data by Ofsted (Recommendation 11)

19.  We think it is right that standards in national tests and examinations should continue to be prominently reported in inspections, because educational attainment and success in examinations is fundamental to the future life chances of young learners. For the same reasons, it is right that national test data should help inspectors to form their judgements on standards and progress, without being crudely used to pre-decide inspection outcomes. As well as absolute attainment, inspectors look to CVA data in order to take account of schools' specific circumstances and intakes. Inspection grades can reflect excellent progress by pupils who enter a school significantly below national expectations; or inadequate progress by pupils from more privileged backgrounds with high attainment on entry. CVA data, alongside absolute attainment data, is therefore relevant in reaching inspection judgements, as is the direct evidence seen during the inspection itself, on assessment systems, the quality of teaching, lesson observations, discussions with learners and the views expressed by parents.

20.  RAISEonline, and other data packages, provide inspectors with robust data about the standards achieved by pupils, and the progress they are able to make during each Key Stage. Data of a similar quality is not current available in other areas of schools' work, to reflect the full range of the Every Child Matters agenda. The Department is working with Ofsted to address these gaps in time for the next inspections cycle, starting in 2009.

The burden of assessment (Recommendation 16)

21.  Some preparation is necessary to enable pupils to display what they know and what they can do in the context of a time-limited test. Teaching the curriculum well and teaching pupils how to display what they know is good practice, but the Government does not support excessive time spent on test preparation, and will ensure that this issue is explored in gathering evidence about "teaching to the test", and in any future guidance.

22.  Single level tests, currently being trialled in the Making Good Progress pilot, could reduce the need for other tests to monitor progress within the Key Stage or for diagnostic purposes. Our investment in developing teachers' assessment skills and the provision of AfL and Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) materials will enable teachers to track progress and plan the next stage of learning through their own ongoing assessments. They would enter pupils for a single level test when they judged them to be ready, rather than wait until the end of the Key Stage.

Sample testing (Recommendations 5 and 23)

23.  The Committee has proposed that we consider a move to multiple test instruments, each serving fewer purposes, as an alternative to National Curriculum tests. As set out elsewhere in this Response, we do not accept the argument that the current National Curriculum tests serve too many purposes. The development and implementation of additional tests implies extra costs and increased workload for teachers and others, and we are not persuaded of the benefits it would bring. It also seems likely that we would have a number of sets of incompatible performance data, which would result in confusion for schools and parents, and would be a less transparent way of holding the education system to account.

24.  We recognise that sample testing is one way of measuring performance and progress at national level. However, a system of sample testing could achieve only that single purpose and a whole cohort system of assessment would continue to be needed to provide information about the performance of every pupil and every school. We believe that high quality annual tests that reflect the evolution of the curriculum provide a more accurate measurement of performance. In developing tests, the NAA uses a standard test against which to equate the standards of each annual test. We do not see merit in imposing the additional burden of participating in sample tests on some schools.

25.  There is evidence to suggest that, internationally, there is a trend to move away from the use of sample testing to national testing of the full cohort. Recent examples include:

  • Australia, where national assessments have been introduced for the first time in May 2008 in literacy and numeracy for years 3, 5, 7 and 9;
  • Japan, where new national standardised tests in Japanese and mathematics were introduced for all 12- and 15-year olds in April 2007 and will take place annually; and
  • Germany, where national tests to assess children in lower secondary against recently introduced national standards in a range of subjects are being introduced from 2009.

The recent OECD review of Scotland's school system, where testing is currently carried out on a sample basis, recommended that the Scottish Survey of Achievement be extended to all children throughout Scotland as a basis for negotiating resource and outcome agreements with local authorities and to enable improvements to be measured at an individual and sub-group level.[2]

Teacher assessment and Assessment for Learning (Recommendations 3 and 26)

26.  We welcome the Committee's recommendation which supports action we are already taking to improve AfL practice, to promote personalised teaching and learning, and reflects the way in which single level tests and AfL have been designed to work together in the Making Good Progress pilot. Rigorous assessment and tracking of pupil performance in order to inform classroom practice is the most common feature of schools where pupils make good progress and attainment gaps are closed. AfL is therefore a key element of personalised learning. While some schools are already using AfL very effectively, the evidence of inspections is that, for one school in four, ongoing assessment is a key area for improvement.

27.  In the Children's Plan, we set out our aim "to make the use of tracking and AfL tools and techniques truly universal across all schools - extending them beyond the core subjects of English and mathematics." We are investing £150 million over the next three years in the continuing professional development of school staff in AfL. The AfL Strategy, which has been jointly developed by the DCSF, the National Strategies and the QCA, together with the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, is designed to support schools in using assessment information to improve and plan provision, as well as improving the quality of the assessment process itself. Among the Strategy's aims is that every teacher is equipped to make well-founded judgements about pupils' attainment, understands the concepts and principles of progression, and knows how to use their assessment judgements to forward plan, particularly for pupils who are not fulfilling their potential. With the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, we are working towards having a trained assessment specialist in every school.

28.  To improve the quality and consistency of teacher assessment, the QCA and the National Strategies have been developing Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP). APP is a structured approach to teacher assessment, providing clear criteria against which judgements can be made about levels and sub-levels, helping teachers to track pupils' progress throughout a Key Stage and to plan for the next steps of learning. APP materials for English (reading and writing) and mathematics are available for Key Stages 2 and 3 and should be universally used in schools. English (reading and writing) and mathematics materials for Key Stage 1 will be available in January 2009. Over the next two years, APP materials will be developed for English (speaking and listening), ICT and science, and work will begin on materials for other foundation subjects.

29.  We agree with the Committee that teacher assessment has an important place in assessment, alongside test results. The approach being trialled in the Making Good Progress pilot gives teacher assessment a pivotal role. Pupil entries for the new single level tests are being trialled in the pilot dependent on teacher judgements about when pupils are ready. As with test results, the uses made of teacher assessment data should be determined on the basis of fitness for purpose in a specific context. For example, since 2005, moderated teacher assessment, informed by national tasks and tests, has replaced test results as the principal performance measure for Key Stage 1. It is important to be aware, however, that a moderated teacher assessment process also brings certain demands, including on teacher workload, if it is to provide robust, reliable and comparable data.

30.  At Key Stage 4, given the applied nature of the Diploma, it is important that the assessment method reflects the type of learning. We are confident that we have got the balance right between the level of controlled internal assessment and external testing. Units that involve controlled internal assessment will typically be those that focus on practical or applied learning (the application of knowledge and skills through tasks, problems and situations that relate to work in that sector) whilst those with a more theoretical focus will be externally assessed.

31.  It is for Awarding Bodies to determine the assessment methods that best suit the knowledge, skills and understanding required for each unit. The NAA has developed arrangements to support the management of internal assessment of the Principal Learning and Project elements of the Diploma to ensure rigour and high standards. It is currently running a series of training events for senior managers in consortia who are involved in internal assessment to support delivery of the Diploma from this September.

Making Good Progress (Recommendations 24, 25 and 27-30)

32.  We welcome the Committee's acknowledgement that single level tests may be useful, and their endorsement of a more personalised approach to assessment. The Making Good Progress pilot, of which single level tests are one strand, brings a number of elements together designed to do just this. At its heart is strengthening teachers' assessment skills and using AfL and tracking children's progress to move them on in their learning, alongside the new tests, one-to-one tuition in English and mathematics for pupils who need it, new progression targets and incentives for schools that are successful in supporting pupils who enter Key Stages behind expected standards.

33.  The Making Good Progress pilot is taking place over two years in over 450 schools in ten local authorities. It is being rigorously monitored, and is subject to an independent evaluation. As part of that monitoring and evaluation process we will be looking carefully at the issues the Committee has raised in relation to single level tests, such as the impact on the wider curriculum, and whether they encourage teaching to the test. The validity of single level tests is subject to NAA's own evaluation as they develop the tests, and the assessment model will be subject to Ofqual scrutiny and approval. We agree with the Committee about the importance of using the pilot to understand how single level tests work in schools before deciding whether to implement them on a national basis. The Children's Plan makes clear that we will only make a decision to do this on the basis of positive evidence from the pilot, and endorsement of the approach from the regulator.

34.  It may be helpful to clarify how single level tests are intended to work in relation to AfL. Entry for single level tests will be triggered by teachers when they judge a child is working securely at the next level. If teachers are making accurate judgements about the level at which pupils are working, the test will confirm their judgement. Testing in this way becomes responsive and designed to occur when the child is ready, rather than at a fixed point in their education. The emphasis on AfL within the pilot and through our wider AfL strategy for all schools should also ensure that teachers have a better and sharper understanding about how each pupil is progressing against National Curriculum criteria, where they need to go next in their learning, and what support they need to progress. Single level tests have been designed to work together with our approach to AfL, and in developing both, we and NAA are, as the Committee suggests, looking at the purposes which each should serve.

35.  We do not agree that either single level tests or the current National Curriculum tests disadvantage pupils who may be struggling with the core subjects, or are in any way incompatible with a personalised approach to learning. Within the Making Good Progress pilot we are also trialling the use of one to one tuition in English and mathematics for precisely those children who need and will benefit from this additional support in order to progress. Whilst it is too early at this stage in the pilot to make judgements about the impact of tuition on rates of progress, the anecdotal evidence from pupils and parents about the impact on children's motivation and confidence is very strong.

36.  Progress targets, which measure the percentage of pupils moving two National Curriculum levels through a Key Stage, are not linked specifically to single level tests, as they are part of the national target-setting regime for 2009-10. The focus on progression within the Making Good Progress pilot does, however, enable us to look in more detail at how these targets operate at school level, and their effectiveness as a means of encouraging schools to focus on securing good progress for all pupils, whatever their starting point.

Measuring standards across the curriculum (Recommendation 18)

37.  There are strong reasons for the National Curriculum tests to focus on the core subjects and these are set out elsewhere in this Response. At the end of Key Stage 2, the tests are also backed by statutory teacher assessment in those subjects. In secondary schools, teacher assessments for core and foundation subjects at the end of Key Stage 3 and results from GCSE and other examinations provide measures of performance across the curriculum. For all schools, inspection reports provide an evaluation of standards across the full National Curriculum.

38.  It is a fact that 72% of children who achieve at or above the expected level 4 at the end of Key Stage 2 progress to achieve five or more good GCSEs, compared to 15% of those who did not achieve level 4. This is compelling evidence that the skills gained in achieving the expected level in the core subjects are not illusory; nor come at the expense of development in other curriculum areas.

Grade inflation (Recommendation 19)

39.  We acknowledge that the technical issues relating to grade inflation are complex, but it is not right to say that Government has not engaged with them. The decision to create Ofqual as an independent regulator of examinations and tests for England shows our determination to ensure that the best possible systems are in place to assure standards, and that those systems operate transparently—the regulator will report directly to Parliament—and thereby improve public confidence. The QCA has an established programme of work that Ofqual will continue. This comprises regular reviews of standards in A level and GCSE subjects, the results of which are published. Furthermore, Ofqual announced on 16 May that it had decided to set in hand a study of the reliability of results of external assessments —national tests and examinations—and teacher assessments. This will inform the development of Ofqual's thinking on how it can develop its regulatory approach and ensure the delivery of a high quality assessment system. Ofqual intends to structure a public debate around those issues in parallel with the technical work, engaging a wide range of stakeholders. The Government welcomes Ofqual's decision to conduct this study.

Contextualised Value Added (Recommendation 9)

40.  Contextual Value Added (CVA) scores are constructed to act as a means of measuring the relative successes of schools, taking account of the various starting positions of their pupils, and the challenges they face. The factors that go up to calculating schools' CVA scores are derived each year from a statistical analysis of the academic progress of different groups of pupils, and are used to demonstrate which schools performed better or less well than other schools that year, taking account of the characteristics of their pupils. As such, CVA is a "backward looking" measure, comparing past performance; it should not be used to set future targets, and the Government fully endorses the Committee's view that CVA must not be used to justify or excuse lower performance by some pupil groups. Narrowing attainment gaps is a key priority for the Government, and is underpinned by the new PSA targets. The Achievement and Attainment tables include a substantial discussion of the uses of CVA, and make clear that CVA should not be used to set lower expectations for any pupil or group of pupils.[3]

Presentation of data (Recommendations 5, 8, 10 and 12)

41.  The Committee expresses concerns about how accessible the information published in the Assessment and Attainment tables is, in particular in respect of CVA scores. We have already taken many steps to ensure that users of the National Curriculum test results can interpret the data in an informed manner. We have added text to the front page of the published statistics to make it clear what the tests measure. We have also included confidence intervals around school CVA scores published in the Achievement and Attainment Tables. We will continue to ensure that information required to make informed judgements about the published statistics is made available.

42.  We are constantly looking for better ways of depicting school performance in the Achievement and Attainment Tables, and they have evolved over the years, reflecting the dialogue we have with our stakeholders. The content and format of the tables is reviewed each year, as are other sources of public information on the performance of schools. We accept that the presentation of CVA could be improved and are considering changes that might be introduced. However, there is a difficult balance to be struck between providing data that is readily understandable by the general public and ensuring that data is presented in a way which is statistically robust.

43.  In the Children's Plan, we set out our desire to ensure that schools are measured and rewarded for their contribution to children's overall wellbeing—that is, their contribution to the five Every Child Matters outcomes (which encompass achievement). We are developing school-level indicators of wellbeing on which we plan to consult. We are considering carefully how information on these indicators and existing measures can best be presented to parents.

Diplomas (Recommendations 31-34)

44.  The Government welcomes the Committee's support for Diploma assessment methods which reflect both the applied and theoretical learning elements of the Diploma. We are confident that the Diploma is a high quality and credible qualification but it is right that it is properly evaluated. The 14-19 Education and Skills Implementation Plan set out our commitment to evaluate the Diploma over the first three years of each qualification to ensure that both the design of the Diploma and how it is working are effective.

45.  14-19 Partnerships will be made up of autonomous institutions working together. The fact that a school has a clear identity and sense of purpose does not prevent collaboration. Our Pathfinder work has shown that it is sometimes the most autonomous institutions that make the strongest Partnerships because each institution is clear about what it wants to achieve and what it can contribute.

46.  We believe that the Achievement and Attainment Tables and other measures do not hinder collaboration, but promote higher attainment. Collaboration actively supports the higher achievement of individual institutions through sending students from the home school to a partner school where that partner school specialises in and does particularly well in certain subjects. Where students attend more than one institution, it is right that their performance will be recorded at the home institution where they are registered. The home institution is (and must continue to be) responsible for ensuring its students receive high-quality education wherever it takes place. Holding individual institutions accountable for their students wherever they learn will encourage them to make effective collaboration arrangements and help drive up quality of provision. Successful partnership working should see an improvement in the chances for all pupils and better results for all participating institutions.

47.  The Government is committed to ensuring that the Diploma is of the highest quality in terms of both content and delivery and it is therefore essential that we have an active feedback loop to enable us to learn lessons from early delivery and make any necessary refinements which improve young people's experiences of the Diploma and help to establish them as valued and valuable qualifications. We are not clear from this recommendation what role the committee believes Ofqual should have, but we are convinced that the role intended for it—accrediting and monitoring the qualifications to ensure delivery and maintenance of standards—is the right one.

48.  We set out clear plans for Diplomas and other 14-19 qualifications at the end of March 2008 in "Promoting achievement, valuing success: a strategy for 14-19 qualifications". It set out that there will be four national qualification options: GCSEs and A levels; Diplomas; Apprenticeships; and the Foundation Learning Tier to support students at lower levels. These will offer a range of choices from the general and theoretical to the job-specific. A consultation on aspects of that document has recently closed and we are currently considering the responses. We will review in 2013 how in practice Diplomas, GCSEs, A levels and other general qualifications are combining to meet the needs of young people, employers and universities. This gives time for Diplomas and changes to existing qualifications to bed in, as called for by the Committee. We do not believe it is right to prejudge before young people and parents have had a chance to decide what they think of the new Diplomas.

Regulation and development: the new arrangements (Recommendations 35 and 36)

49.  We welcome the Committee's comments about the creation of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency and the independent Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (Ofqual). These reforms will make still stronger the arrangements for safeguarding the standards of qualifications and assessments, and maintain confidence in the system. As mentioned above, Ofqual has already announced a new in-depth programme of work which will look at the reliability of assessment.

50.  As set out above, we do not accept that sample testing is necessary or desirable. In any case, Ofqual's role is not to monitor education standards as a whole; it is to regulate the qualifications and assessments which are one of the means by which those standards are measured. The work that QCA has done on regulation, engaging with awarding bodies and academics, gives Ofqual a strong and internationally-renowned set of regulatory tools, which can mean that its regulation will be as effective as it can be. Thanks to that regulatory scrutiny, we have every confidence that standards are being maintained and that tests are a true measure of learners' attainment.

2   Recommendation 3, Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland, OECD, December 2007. Back

3   Guide to CVA, at


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