Memorandum submitted by the Chartered
Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA)
1. The CIEA welcomes the opportunity to
submit evidence to the select committee on Education and Skills
and also welcomes moves by government towards more personalised
learning suited to the needs of the individual and not the testing
and assessment system but believes that more needs to be done
in supporting good assessment practice in schools, colleges and
2. The Chartered Institute of Educational
Assessors (CIEA) is an independent charity set up with the support
of DfES and QCA to improve the quality of assessment by providing
continuing professional development to teachers, lecturers and
workplace assessors as well as the external assessment community.
3. In England there exists a well-established
external testing system used as a prime means of validating, verifying
and reporting on students' attainments.
4. Although the cost of this system is large
at £610 million (source PWC February 2005), it represents
1% of the total education budget of government and has created
a system which attracts the continued confidence of the general
5. However, a system of external testing
alone is not ideal and government's recent policy initiatives
in progress checks and diplomas have made some move towards addressing
an imbalance between external testing and internal judgements
made by those closest to the students, ie the teachers, in line
with other European countries.
6. The Institute welcomes these moves towards
creating a balance between external testing and internal assessment
of student's attainments. which could result, given the right
professional support, in a teaching community more adept at different
practices in assessment alongside rigorous standards moderated
by the awarding bodies.
7. Other European countries have already
made this move towards a balance between internal and external
assessment. According to the Programme for International Assessment
of Students (PISA), other countries, such as Finland, achieve
good standards in education while relying more heavily on internal
assessment, only undertaking external assessment in a student's
progression at the point of transfer from secondary to higher
education. If it is the UK Government's stated intention to continue
to support young people with education and training up to the
age of eighteen then the CIEA believes that a reliance on an external
testing system need not be as great as is currently the case and
other models of assessment such as those adopted by other European
Countries could be investigated further.
8. So a move towards a balance of assessment
practice between the internal judgements of the teacher alongside
external moderation from organisations such as the awarding bodies
should be welcomed.
9. In England, according to Ofsted, one
of the areas of concerns regarding school performance is that
of assessment which remains one of the more variable practices
within centres. The work of the National Strategies has helped
to address these issues but the CIEA thinks more work needs to
be done in supporting teacher's professionalism in this vital
area of education, that of teaching, learning and assessment.
The CIEA believes that a move towards balancing internal teacher
judgements alongside rigorous standards in external assessment
will help to address some of these concerns if teacher judgements
can be supported through a framework that allows for the development
of their own skills and capabilities in this vital area of education.
10. In support of this work to help teachers
make valid and reliable assessment of their students' capabilities,
The CIEA is working with the Training and Development Agency (TDA)
to support initial teacher training in assessment. At present
PGCE courses only allow for a limited time on assessment issues,
sometimes as little as 60 minutes over a nine month course, so
the CIEA has developed a toolkit for newly qualified teachers
and students called First Steps in Assessment that seeks
to detail the practice, process and techniques of assessment needed
by every teacher entering the profession for the first time.
11. Once in the classroom, the use of standardised
assessment instruments are not always the best solution in dealing
with the individual capabilities of every student. Initiatives
such as Assessment for Learning and a move to more personalised
learning, in line with government policy, are going a long way
to addressing these issues. However these initiatives need to
be effectively supported by professional development opportunities
for teachers if they are to be more meaningful and sustainable.
This will help teachers make consistently valid and reliable judgements
resulting in better quality of assessment in schools throughout
12. Indeed a move to personalisation underpinned
by regular assessments, both formative and summative (the latter
informed by tests and tasks drawn from a national bank and moderated
externally by the awarding bodies), over the course of a period
of study, might provide a more comprehensive picture of the capabilities
of students across a wide range of core competencies within a
given subject domain. These assessments would provide a more rounded
view of the achievements of students and enable learning programmes,
personal to the student, to be developed while maintaining national
standards through light touch external moderation.
13. Over the course of the coming months,
CIEA will be outlining a role, purpose and scope for individuals
based in schools, colleges and other places of learning to take
the lead on assessment issues, ie Chartered Educational Assessors.
This would help to address the problems of variability and inconsistency
in assessment practices, which Ofsted has identified. The role
of these centre-based specialists, supported by a programme of
professional development from the Institute, would be to provide
assessment tools, support, mentoring and coaching for colleagues.
These individuals would also be responsible for quality assuring
assessment processes and standards within schools so that a common
approach to good assessment practice can be developed between
subject specialists and across different subjects. They would
ensure that the data derived from assessment is used to feed back
into and improve the teaching and learning process rather than
merely for reporting or tracking purposes.
14. The Institute has also developed a Professional
Framework which could underpin an accredited programme of training
and qualifications, delivered by CIEA's educational stakeholders,
which would allow individual teachers to demonstrate their assessment
knowledge and good assessment practices. The Framework outlines
the role, competencies and behaviours needed by those undertaking
assessment tasks in the classroom as well as externally via the
awarding bodies. This tool is available online at www.ioea.org.uk.
The Framework provides a structured approach to the process of
assessment and the continuing professional development of those
involved in assessment tasks so that, once assessment requirements
have been identified, teachers can adopt good practice. The Framework
will underpin the role of Chartered Educational Assessors in delivering
better assessment practice.
15. All these developments are pertinent
to the development of national curriculum and other assessments.
For example, trust in the assessment system and, in particular,
teachers' ability to make good assessments is essential to the
changes, which the DfES' proposals on Making Good Progress
envisage. The provision of progress tests for students is only
one part of the full picture of delivering better educational
standards. In order for progress tests to be meaningful we need
to improve the system, processes and personal skills, which allow
for good assessment practice in schools. This can only come about
through the provision of professional support and development
for teachers to allow them to become more expert at practising
good assessment. Through structured training and qualifications
as well as access to exemplification materials, tools and resources
we can bring about better quality assessment in our schools on
a more flexible and personalised basis in a consistent manner.
Such an approach would effectively support more personalised learning
that allows for the fulfilment of every student's potential in
education. The CIEA hopes to contribute to these changes through
its Professional Framework and Chartered Educational Assessor
16. General Issues
17. Why do we have a centrally run system
of testing and assessment?
18. Originally we relied on external testing
to identify those students who would progress to higher education
though university entrance examinations. Under the auspices of
the Department and its predecessor bodies, a uniform system emerged
loosely regulated from the centres but with the setting of syllabuses
(specifications) and examinations delegated to independent examination
boards. Over the years, as more students stayed in education and
took examinations and as competition for places and jobs intensified,
the demand for greater comparability across examinations grew
and equal access to curriculum and qualifications became the norm.
The introduction of National Criteria for GCSE and a National
Curriculum and associated assessment arrangements in the 1980's
resulted in the centralised system we now have. We now use external
testing and examinations as the prime validation of a student's
achievements and as a means of measuring the performance of schools
and colleges. Unlike other leading European countries, we provide
limited effective support to teachers in assessment. The Assessment
for Learning programme is making inroads here, although this does
not necessarily better equip teachers with improved summative
assessment skills and expertise.
19. What other systems of assessment are in
place both internationally and across the UK?
20. In the UK, vocational examinations rely
on assessment throughout the course and in the workplace. These
assessments are valued by the community and by employers, with
none of the concerns attached to the validity of teacher assessments
in schools manifesting themselves in this context. Indeed, students
who achieve good results in traditional tests and examinations
do not always go on to become active contributors to society.
As we are all aware, employers often criticise the skills of young
people in terms of basic numeracy and communications skills.
21. The OECD's Programme for International
Assessment of Students (PISA) has revealed that countries where
teacher assessment is at the hub of the assessment system generally
out perform countries more reliant on the external testing of
students, such as in the UK. This need not be the case in future
if we can develop better assessment practice within schools, colleges
and the workplace to match current assessment standards provided
by the external awarding bodies.
22. In both the 2000 and 2003 PISA surveys
Finland, Korea and Japan performed consistently well across the
range of measures covered in the surveys. In each of these countries
compulsory school age student assessment is largely the responsibility
of teachers rather than a reliance on external testing.
23. Finland's linear comprehensive education
system, where students remain at the same schools from age 7-16,
relies purely on teacher assessment to determine student achievement.
All teachers must achieve a Masters degree prior to being allowed
to teach. Schools are self-regulating (no external inspections)
but must adhere to a national curriculum and national standards
in assessment regulated by the National Board of Education.
24. Korea uses national scholastic achievement
tests alongside continual teacher assessment based on a national
curriculum. In the national tests two subjects are tested on one
occasion each year with a sample of between 0.5 and 1% of the
total student population in Years 6, 9 and 10, ie at ages 12,
15 and 18. The results of school assessment are, however, generally
not made public. Test scores are not supposed to be made available
to students or parents. The test results are primarily used to
monitor school standards and to monitor student progress.
25. Japan's compulsory schooling between
age 6 and 15 does not use compulsory testing. Certification of
completion at both the end of elementary and junior high school
phases is made on the basis of internal teacher assessment following
structured national guidance based on a compulsory national curriculum.
26. Therefore a move towards balancing assessments
between internal teacher judgements and externally moderated standards
is welcomed by the CIEA in light of government's recently announced
initiatives in Diplomas and progress tests.
27. Does a focus on national testing and assessment
reduce the scope for creativity in the curriculum?
28. There is a danger in any system that
learners will follow "guidance" diligently and that
teachers will be fearful of deviating from it and "teach
to the test". Creativity and learning may then become secondary
to the need to perform well on the big occasion, whether it be
SATS, GCSE or A-level, on the results of which the school/college
will be judged. There is nothing new here: as long ago as 1889
this danger was recognised, as the following quotation from The
Sacrifice of Education to Examination, letters from "all
sorts and conditions of men, (ed Auberon Herbert) shows:
i. The evil done by examinations to the teachers,
or rather to those who should be teaching, but whose energies
are largely absorbed in examining, might be diminished if the
present excessive number of examinations were reduced, if their
minuteness and detail were lessened, and if a wider range of tests
were permitted, and less excess weight attached to the power of
covering paper within narrow limits of time . . . . . . . . .
My own experience has shown me that (examinations) have the most
widely diverse effects, both on the teacher and taught, according
to the principles upon which they are arranged. Where a minute
specification of topics, and still worse, of books, is adopted,
they are mischievous to both. They fetter the teacher in arranging
his course of education; and they lead the taught to aim at cramming
and to be impatient of any instruction not obviously resolvable
29. QCA's recent curriculum revisions, intended
to allow for more creativity in the application of the curriculum
are welcome. However, all teachers do not yet have the necessary
skills to be more flexible, more personalised and more adaptive
in the use of new technology, new teaching techniques and new
forms of assessment.
30. The recent curriculum review needs to
be supported by structured Continuing Professional Development
(CPD) programmes, as outlined above using the Institute's Professional
Framework, for teachers to be able to make the most use of the
greater flexibility that the curriculum allows.
31. Who is the QCA accountable to and is this
32. It would be inappropriate for the CIEA
to comment, as this is a matter for QCA.
33. What role should exam boards have in testing
34. Traditionally examination boards (or
awarding bodies) have set as well as applied the national standard
to their syllabuses, examinations and grading. More recently the
regulator has taken on the responsibility for determining the
national standard and monitoring its application. Awarding bodies
continue to play a major role in the application of that standard
through their specifications and the consistent marking to the
standard of candidates' work in all subjects. Where teacher judgements
are concerned the role of the examination board is to ensure that
these, like the marks of examiners of externally assessed components,
are consistent with the national standardie not to replace
teacher judgements regarding the capabilities of their students
but to moderate the marks given against the national benchmark.
35. Teachers are best placed to identify
the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners but are not
always given the right support, skills or training to be able
to be effective in this role. There is a role for awarding bodies
in both the moderation of teacher judgements and the local training
of teachers within local networks of suitably qualified assessors
supported through a structured programme of Continuing Professional
Development (CPD) aimed at developing the skills of teachers in
good assessment practice. The qualified assessorsthe most
experienced of whom would aspire to Chartered statuswould
be accredited to national standards by an independent organisation
such as the CIEA, They would be capable of making consistent judgements
regarding student progress and achievements over time. Such a
system would provide assurances that teacher judgements provide
assessments to given national standards.
36. Work on assessing the reliability of
teacher assessments in comparison with national external testing
has been developed by QCA in collaboration with DfES and the National
Strategies and conducted by QCA via the Assessing Pupil Performance
programme in English and maths which has been adopted for national
rollout by the DfES. This work can be built upon by the introduction
of Chartered Educational Assessors, as outlined above.
37. National Key Stage Tests
38. The current situation
39. How effective are the current Key Stage
40. The current Key Stage tests have around
fourteen objectives for their assessments. These include testing
the individual student, testing the teacher of a group of students,
assessing national standards of achievement for a range of students,
assessing the performance of a group of teachers in a single school
or across a number of schools, and also testing individual school's
achievements in a single year and over time. In reality assessment
instruments can only have a small number of objectives to be reliable,
valid and fit for purpose.
41. Key Stage tests also provide a snapshot
in time of an individual student's performance and, as intimated
above, are not a valid and reliable indicator of the overall skills
and capabilities of an individual student.
42. Rather than relying on a single snapshot
in time of a student in a limited range of subjects, it would
be preferable to assess their skills, knowledge and experience
over a greater period of time in order to arrive at an effective
assessment of that student's capabilities. This would lend itself
to a balance between teacher-based assessment, moderated by professionals
such as Chartered Educational Assessors, and supported by light
touch moderation from the awarding bodies.
43. Do they adequately reflect levels of performance
of children and schools, and changes in performance over time?
44. Key Stage tests reflect achievements
of schools over time to a certain extent. In terms of individual
children, standardised tests can never accurately reflect individual
students' capabilities without being tailored to a certain extent
for accessibility issues. More personalised assessments, which
the Government has announced as its direction of travel, will
achieve greater validity over time but there is a tension between
validity and reliability where single tests will give more reliable
but less valid results than more personalised tests.
45. As different tests are run each year
then the nature of a series of standardised levels is somewhat
misleading. To get an accurate picture of consistent standards
over time the same test would have to be run with similar groups
of students each year, but this is impracticable.
46. From research carried out by the Institute
of Education it has been suggested that as many as 30% of all
students achieve an incorrect grade or mark for their work using
standardised test scores. There is nothing new in such findings:
the first studies on reliability of marking in the late 19th century
came up with similar findings. Consequently, tests are not a reliable
indicator of a student's overall capability, although as the test
score error is consistent over time from series to series, it
brings with it a degree of consistency.
47. Do they provide assessment for learning
(enabling teachers to concentrate on areas of a pupil's performance
that needs improvement)?
48. Data from Key Stage tests can provide
an indication of the likely areas students will need to develop
in order to extend their capabilities but attention needs to be
given to the nature of the questions selected which may not reflect
accurately the knowledge attained by an individual student as
the questions posed have been pre-selected by external examiners.
49. A weak link between testing and assessment
for learning is the individual capability of the teacher to be
able to accurately take data from tests and apply it to personalised
learning plans, combined with personalised and more flexible assessment
methods, for a group of students. Teachers struggle to validate
this type of learning consistently and so more structured CPD
programmes of support are needed for teachers to be able to become
more effective in the development of personalised learning and
50. Additionally, can summative outcomes
from tests be used on a daily basis in lessons to develop the
formative processes of students? Professor Paul Black argues that
it is unlikely and that Assessment for Learning is process driven
not summative outcome driven. In a recent article in the CIEA's
Make the Grade magazine, he said:
51. A frequent misunderstanding is that
any assessment by teachers, and in particular the use of a weekly
test to produce a record of marks, constitutes formative assessment.
It does not. Unless some learning action follows from the outcomes,
such practice is merely frequent summative assessment: the key
featureinteraction through feedback is missing. Another
misunderstanding is the belief that this is about the coursework
assessment that forms part of some GCSEs; such assessment cannot
aid learning unless there is active feedback to improve pupils'
work as it develops . . . The research showing that a diet of
marks does not improve learning, and that comments can do so only
if pupils are not distracted by marks.
52. Key stage tests data does not readily
transfer to aid assessment in the foundation subjects; this is
a further argument for the introduction of highly skilled Chartered
Educational Assessors to develop assessment practices in both
formative and summative capacities for these subjects.
53. Does testing help to improve levels of
54. Testing helps to improve levels of attainment
in tests but due to the nature of teaching to the test, many students
have a grasp of a limited range of knowledge and skills which
may not meet the needs of employers for more rounded students
who are able to apply critical thinking skills from one area to
55. The points made in response to the previous
question also apply here.
56. Are they effective in holding schools
accountable for their performance?
57. National Curriculum Tests are accepted
by parents and the general public as giving a broad indication
of the achievements of both individual children and individual
schools at a moment in time and form part of the accountability
framework of education to parents and the general public.
58. However, the tests are not perfect due
to the reasons mentioned above. In light of this the CIEA believes
that government policy initiatives around progress tests are set
to address some of these issues however at present the objectives
for which they are held are too numerous and there are concerns
over validity and reliability.
59. How effective are performance measures
such as value-added scores for schools?
60. Contextual value added scores are seen
as a more reliable indicator of success than league tables based
on raw data. Schools use this data to help in tracking performance
along with other data, such as the Fischer Family Trust data and
CATs (or their equivalent).
61. As an indicator of performance measures
the value added data alone is not as reliable as when combined
with other data sources but it is preferable to raw data.
62. Are league tables based on test results
an accurate reflection of how well schools are performing?
63. Performance tables are only a small
slice of the overall picture of a school or student's achievements.
Other indicators such as the development of a student's attitude
and motivation to learn, and to provide more holistic teaching
experiences all provide a better quality measurement of a student's
experience are missing from a simplistic testing instrument.
64. To what extent is there "teaching
to the test"?
65. The answers provided to earlier questions
are pertinent here. While little empirical evidence exists, anecdotal
evidence suggests that teaching to the test is widespread among
teachers and schools because the main focus of government and
public attention is test results as a means of indicating education
standards but the two are not the same. A further pertinent observation
from The Sacrifice of Education to Examination, letters from
"all sorts and conditions of men (1889) may be of interest
to the Committee.
66. Everything is now sacrificed to the
whim of the examiner, who may be a clever man, but who evidently
writes his questions with the one aim of showing his own amount
of learning. But the worst feature of the case is that all interest
is taken out of the studies. A teacher must not now awaken an
enthusiasm that will send a student to ransack a library on the
loved subject,because it is not prescribed by the examiner!
We are becoming year by year narrower and shallower, more shut
into one rut, more confined to a few subjects.
67. As that quotation from a different age
would suggest, testing and examinations do not necessarily result
in the provision of a rounded education to individuals who are
capable of making an effective contribution to society. Rather,
we may be churning out individuals who can pass tests and who
can achieve good results to a given, known test, but who cannot
necessarily apply their knowledge and skills to other situations,
hence the concern from employers about skill levels among young
68. Instead we need a more rounded indicator
of the capabilities of students' performance and the CIEA's view
is that this needs to come from a prolonged assessment of an individual
carried out in their locality over the course of their study by
a suitably trained and qualified educational assessor, but still
subject to moderation by the awarding bodies to ensure that national
standards of achievement are maintained and education continues
to attract the confidence of parents and the general public.
69. How much of a factor is "hot-housing"
in the fall-off in pupil performance from Year 6 to Year 7?
70. There is a known and well-documented
phenomenon which highlights the decline in attainment from Year
6 to Year 7.
71. This may be caused by the hothouse effect,
namely learners studying a limited curriculum in the final term
of Primary education in preparation for the National Curriculum
Tests. On arriving in a new institution, they are inclined not
to work as efficiently or effectively since there is no immediate
terminal public examination, a further example of the undesirable
backwash effect of external examinations on the curriculum.
72. Fall-off in performance may also be
caused by learners switching from a regime where they are taught
by the same person for all subjects, to a regime where they are
taught by specialist teachers using specialist equipment in discrete
physical locations for each curriculum area.
73. It may be caused by the need for individuals
to reorganise their own social structures and hierarchies, having
left one institution where each was the oldest within the hierarchy,
to one where each is the youngest within the hierarchy. They also
have to renegotiate their relationships with their peers, many
of whom they have not met before. Each individual also has to
learn the rights, responsibilities and rules within the new institution
and develop a working relationship with others in the new institution.
74. The decline in attainment and progress
made by some Year 7 learners is probably caused by a mixture of
all of these factors.
75. Does the importance given to test results
mean that teaching generally is narrowly focused?
76. Again, earlier comments are pertinent
to this question.
77. Possibly. It may be narrowly focused
on achieving a test result rather than producing high levels of
educational standards among our young people so in real terms
our competitiveness is not the highest among European countries
as measured by PISA, and can be improved.
78. What role does assessment by teachers
have in teaching and learning?
79. Earlier observations on the impact of
external assessment on teaching and learning are relevant to this
question. It seems to CIEA that, were teachers to develop their
skills in educational assessment, the impact on the learning programmes
would be beneficial. Teaching and learning only gives half of
the picture. Without any educational assessment, teachers would
not know what to teach next or if the teaching has been effective.
In order to make the best use of the data provided by assessment,
teachers need good support mechanisms, such as CIEA's Professional
80. Instead of being involved in teaching
and learning, therefore, teachers need to be involved in teaching,
learning and assessment. Like other countries which adopt a balance
between internal and external assessment on students up to the
age of 18, when decisions are made about career choices or higher
education, teachers need to engage in assessment to a greater
81. Better and more sharply focussed assessment
by the teacher in the classroom would benefit the taxpayer who
pays around £610 million to support the current external
tests system as well as improving teaching and learning.
82. THE FUTURE
83. Should the system of national tests be
84. We need to develop national tests over
time in line with the needs of students and parents. More localised
assessment supported by a rigorous programme of structured CPD,
providing the appropriate skills to teachers to allow them to
mark to national standards and to allow for both personalised
learning and a more flexible response to the needs of individual
students. This would still need to be supported by a system of
national external moderation to ensure that assessments continued
to attract the confidence of the general public in educational
standards over time.
85. The CIEA Professional Framework and
the Chartered Educational Assessor, described earlier in this
response, could be the tools to provide such teacher judgements
to national standards.
86. If so, should the tests be modified or
87. The Secretary of State has suggested
that there should be a move to more personalised assessment to
measure how a pupil's level of attainment has improved over time.
Pilot areas to test proposals have just been announced. The CIEA
supports this move.
88. Would the introduction of this kind of
assessment make it possible to make an overall judgment on a school's
89. Although the proposals are to be welcomed
as an indicator of intent, they are too rigid and inflexible as
they seek to address issues of performance by rolling out more
external testing of the key stage type which are the CIEA's underlying
causes of concern about educational standards in this country.
90. Would it be possible to make meaningful
comparisons between different schools?
91. For the reasons given above, simply
rolling out more external testing may not address the issues behind
improving our educational standards.
92. What effect would testing at different
times have on pupils and schools?
93. It is hard to predict if we don't know
what we are testing or how we are testing it. Clearly the organisational
implications of greater personalisation would need to be considered.
Those in schools and colleges are best placed to comment on this
aspect of change.
94. Would it create pressure on schools to
push pupils to take tests earlier? If Key Stage tests remain,
what should they be seeking to measure? If, for example, performance
at Level 4 is the average level of attainment for an eleven-year-old,
what proportion of children is it reasonable to expect to achieve
at or above that level?
95. If students were given the right amount
of support by suitably qualified teachers in educational assessment
then they would be able to take tests when they, and not the system,
are ready. This would help to ease the burden on an already stretched
external testing system. However, if students' testing could be
undertaken in the classroom and externally validated through light
touch moderation by the awarding bodies and more localised assessment
support, then there is no reason why this move to balance internal
and external testing should not work as is the case in other European
96. Over time more personalised learning
development plans could be introduced supported by personalised
assessment plans that would allow each student to develop to his
or her own potential in a supportive system.
97. A number of schools do this already
and there is a case for on-demand testing that is being increasingly
advocated by leading assessment experts, such as Professors David
Hargreaves, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam.
98. How are the different levels of performance
expected at each age decided on? Is there broad agreement that
the levels are appropriate and meaningful?
99. These indicators are set by QCA following
consultation with educational and awarding body stakeholders who
are better placed than CIEA to comment on their appropriateness
AT 16 AND
101. Is the testing and assessment in "summative"
tests (for example, GCSE, AS, A2) fit for purpose?
102. Like the national curriculum tests,
the CIEA considers that these public examinations may not be ideal
but they are accepted by parents and the general public as accountable
measures of attainment.
103. There is, however, a very real question
as to whether we need a national system of qualifications at age
16 when, increasingly, students are staying in education and training.
Indeed a recent government policy was announced in the autumn
of 2006 indicating that all children will be supported by access
to education and training opportunities until the age of 18, effectively
raising the school leaving age by two years.
104. The question of the appropriateness
of a public examination at 16 was raised in the 1940s by the Norwood
Report and when GCE O and A-levels were introduced in 1951 the
expectation was that those students who progressed to A-level
(at that time very few) would by-pass O-level. The current talk
of an 18 year old leaving age would point to a 16 year old "leaving
examination" being redundant and could be replaced by a system
of moderated and standardised teacher assessment, with all the
training, constraints and use of national standards as mentioned
earlier in this response. Again, the concept of Chartered Educational
Assessors would be an important feature of such a system.
105. An externally provided qualification
like A level and others (the Diploma, for example) would remain
relevant and necessary to 18 year olds as a summative statement
of their achievements in the education system and as an entry
into Higher Education and employment. Whether it would be right
to rely on these assessments as a means of holding schools and
colleges accountable to the public and government is a question
that needs debate.
106. Additionally tests that are truly valid
are tailored to the needs of individual students in assessing
what needs to be assessed in the right manner. However, tests
that are reliable across different groups of students are naturally
standardised around a norm and are hence could be considered not
truly valid tests.
107. Are the changes to GCSE coursework due
to come into effect in 2009 reasonable? What alternative forms
of assessment might be used?
108. Course work has had various interpretations
over its many years of existencespecified work carried
out at home or in the field, as is often the case now in examinations,
or an assessment of the work carried out by students as part of
the course. Highlighting the latter enables a coherent picture
of the students' attainments in the course to emerge and to provide
a rounded picture of what has been achieved. Work carried out
as part of the course should be work undertaken in the classroom
and validated by the teacher over the course of the academic year
which can, therefore, be a true reflection of the learning that
is taking place. It also overcomes the problems of plagiarism.
Accredited specialist assessors in a school, such as Chartered
Educational Assessors, could be a means of ensuring good quality
school/college-based assessments which command public confidence.
109. What are the benefits of exams and coursework?
How should they work together? What should the balance between
110. Earlier answers are pertinent to this
111. Formal exams can be a useful measure
of knowledge gained and retained and can help the learners, to
some extent, use their skills developed over the course of study.
However, in some subjects like history, learners will not have
the opportunity to use acquired skills, eg research skills, in
a formal exam. Assessing the work of the course enables those
wider skills to be formally acknowledged in the profile which
is built up of a student's capabilities and attainment.
112. On the other hand there is a constant
risk of plagiarism if coursework is uncontrolled and learners'
time may be disproportionately used for the relatively low weightings
for coursework in some subjects, although others have significantly
more weighting of marks to coursework.
113. The current review of coursework and
the introduction of controlled tasks is therefore important and
the CIEA would appreciate an input into this.
114. Will the ways in which the new 14-19
Diplomas are to be assessed impact on other qualifications, such
115. There is always a danger in introducing
a new qualification alongside existing, respected qualifications.
Steps have to be taken to ensure that the new product gains respect
and is wanted by both the learner and users of qualifications
such as HE and employers. In the case of the new Diploma there
is evidence of a real intention to make the new qualification
work and of cooperation across educationalists, employers and
awarding bodies. The CIEA is anxious to support the new qualification
and, in particular the element within the Diplomas which relies
on "local" assessmentie assessment of applied
learning. We envisage this being undertaken by a Chartered Educational
Assessor, authenticated by the CIEA and we are pleased to have
been involved in discussions with QCA, NAA and SSAT. The Chartered
Educational Assessor could quality assure the assessment regimes
across consortia, at both the local school or college level and
across the consortium as a whole. This quality assurance will
underwrite the accuracy of the assessments across the consortium
and validate the assessment outputs.
116. The assessment of the new Diplomas
will be different in kind from assessments that have gone before
them. The new diplomas will rely on a mixture of end of unit tests,
managed by the diploma awarding bodiessimilar in type to
the current GCSE or GCE. In addition, however, they will have
an element of local assessment that will focus on the application
of skills, understanding and knowledge.
117. This new approach could have implications
for GCSE and for the moderation of course work, since it will
allow those individuals accredited as a Chartered Educational
Assessors to moderate the assessment of a school and leave the
awarding body with only a light touch sample of moderation to
be carried out. It could, therefore, demonstrate that such an
approach might be relevant in other contexts like GCSE, although
there would continue to be a need for awarding bodies to take
steps to assure national standards. The CIEA has no purchase or
ownership of those standards; our role is in relation to the support
of teachers and the continuing professional development which
118. Is holding formal summative tests at
ages 16, 17 and 18 imposing too great a burden on students? If
so, what changes should be made?
119. The answer given above to testing after
16 is relevant here. In brief, if government policy is to ensure
training and education for all individuals up to the age of 18,
then the need for national formalised external testing is reduced
below this age level.
120. Instead we should aim for national
cohort sampling to get national standards of achievement and opt
for more localised teacher-based assessment supported by light
touch moderation from the awarding bodies up to the age of 18
with external testing being retained at age 18 when career choices
are made to continue studying at higher education or enter the
121. To what extent is frequent, modular assessment
altering both the scope of teaching and the style of teaching?
122. Modular assessment has had major benefits
in enabling students for whom a single end-of-course assessment
would be too great a hurdle to attain the standard of a qualification
such as A-level. However, there needs to be a balance struck in
any modular course between the coherence of the whole and its
fragmentation into shorter learning chunks. Too many modules can,
in this respect, be as detrimental as a single end of course examination
was to the attainment of the cohort as a whole.
123. Allowing teachers more flexibility
to deliver and assess via modular courses has merits, such as
not teaching to a final end-of-course test (although more atomised
testing can have the same effect), and demerits, such as the possibility
of not applying consistent and rigorous processes and standards.
The awarding bodies have a major role to play here ensuring consistency
and rigour from module to module as well as across the whole subject.
124. Modular assessment can allow for a
wider scope of teaching and learning styles to be accommodated
provided that the assessment instrument applied to a particular
module is sensitive to the objectives of the modulea practical
orientation, for example, requires a different form of assessment
than does concentration on factual knowledge. Modular learning
might be appropriate to individualised learning pathways.
125. How does the national assessment system
interact with university entrance?
126. University entrance is traditionally
based upon achievement at "A" Level. Over recent years
alternative demonstrations of reaching the standard required have
been acceptedfor example vocational qualifications, the
IB and access courses. Widening participation is taken very seriously
by Higher Education.
127. However, according to some universities
the number of candidates acquiring higher grades suggests that
traditional qualifications provide insufficient discrimination
to enable the best students to be identifiedhence the call
for an A*grade. A number of selective universities have based
their entry requirements on unit grades, that is the scores and
grades achieved, not in the subject as a whole, but rather in
the scores attained in each of the unit tests, thereby giving
a fuller picture of attainment.
128. This equates to a six-fold increase
in the amount of data available to an admissions tutor. Many universities
are unlikely to have the staffing to interpret or collect such
a wealth of data.
129. Again, it is easy to forget that concern
over the quality of students entering university is not a new
phenomenon. In 1960 when a mere 5% of the student population entered
Universities, the Northern Universities' Joint Matriculation Board
observed in its Annual Report.
130. Among freshmen in general the level
of ability to write English is disappointingly low. The suitability
of the present GCE Examination in English Language at the Ordinary
level is not here being criticised so far as it concerns the 16-year-old
candidate for whom it was designed, although opinion about this
aspect of the examination is not wholly favourable. It seems to
be generally agreed however that the degree of ability to express
oneself which might be accepted from the 16-year-old candidate
is not sufficient at university entry, that too often apparently
such facility as may be present at 16 is not encouraged to develop
pari passu with the development which goes on in the other
aspects of the Sixth form curriculum. It may well be that if all
the students were sufficiently "literate" at entry,
some of them might lapse into comparative "illiteracy"
while at the university unless care were taken to ensure that
further development is actively encouraged and fostered within
the university itself. That is a matter for the university authorities
themselves; the duty of the Board is to ensure that at entry those
who have been examined by the Board as potential university students
have gone further than what is now accepted as O-level English
Language." (AQA Archive, 1960)
131. What does it mean for a national system
of testing and assessment that universities are setting entrance
tests as individual institutions?
132. Clearly this is all about the ability
of universities to select with confidence the best students for
their courses. Were they to set their own tests, they could undermine
public confidence in test outcomes produced by the awarding bodies.
It would not be in the best interest of students if they were
faced with a battery of individual entry examinations. In reality
only a very fewadmittedly the most prestigiousuniversities
would take this step and it is questionable whether even they
would have the resources needed to do so.
133. More worryingly is the stand which
universities may take on the value of the new Diplomas. Their
acceptance for university entrance is critical to their value
and to public confidence.
134. Teacher-based judgements on the abilities
of students within the summative A-level system would enable a
more rounded picture of the students to be provided to users of
qualifications, including the universities. Those judgements would
need to be supported by CPD in order to command public trust.
As stated earlier, other countries like Finland already do this.
136. The CIEA would be pleased to elaborate
on any part of this submission in a written form or in person,
if called to give evidence to the Committee. As an Institute we
are committed to improving the standard of assessment in schools,
colleges and the workplace, to supporting those involved in assessments
through CPD and to increasing public confidence in assessment
by means of Chartered status. We are well placed to support new
initiatives such as progress tests and the new Diplomas and are
ready to work with educational and employer stakeholders to ensure
that these and other initiatives improve the quality of learning
and its outcomes for the benefit of students and the nation.
1 The Institute of Educational Assessors received its
Royal Charter on 2 April 2008. Back