Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)

  Further to its previous submission, ASCL would like to make the following points:

  1.  The over-assessment of young people in England is causing them considerable stress and this is incompatible with the first outcome of Every Child Matters (being healthy). The stress is evidenced by international comparisons (for example, by UNESCO) of the happiness and wellbeing of young people, in which England has not featured at all well.

  2.  Many of the costs of external examinations were highlighted in our original submission. We would like to add further that the supervision of the large number of additional support staff required to make the current examination systems work has fallen upon senior staff. This is an additional load in itself and an indirect cost not included in our previous paper.

  3.  The cost of the national testing regime is wholly disproportionate to the gains made at intermediate key stages, most especially (in secondary schools) at Key Stage 3. In looking for efficiency savings, the Government should be aware that there is an obvious return to be had in streamlining over-costly and only marginally useful tests at this stage.

  4.  Age-related tests are also antagonistic to the personalisation "test when ready" philosophy underpinning Making Good Progress.

  5.  We would like to see the development of student portfolios of work in which objective e-testing components are a part. The e-testing would happen when an individual is ready, so would be spread across a school year and not prove unmanageable (as the earlier ICT e-Tests at KS3 proved to be for many schools).

  6.  The portfolios should be moderated by accredited Chartered Assessors, as suggested in our original paper.

  7.  Chartered Assessors should have an obligation to moderate other schools and, in turn, be moderated by others of their rank (thereby avoiding any conflict of interest).

  8.  There are current and successful role models for this approach—most obviously BTEC at all levels post-14 and is, we understand, to be QCA's recommended assessment regime for the new Diplomas.

  9.  The implication of this is that a Chartered Assessor would be required in each school for each of the core subjects currently tested at Key Stage 3 (English, maths and science). Such a less costly system could further be extended to ICT, thereby helping to ensure that 14-year olds reached functionality in the four major areas of the curriculum.

  10.  Functional skills should be a subsumed part of GCSEs. Functionality should be assumed to be achieved by an individual securing a GCSE grade C or better on papers that have been designed to include that as an objective. They should also be available as stand-alone qualifications for those not expected, or subsequently proven unable, to reach that level in the standard school examination. We understand this to be the intention for English, maths and science but, as ICT GCSE is generally an optional subject in KS4, functional skills must be tested in some other way. The portfolio approach would lend itself to this assessment, particularly in the many schools in which ICT is consciously taught as an embedded part of the whole curriculum.

December 2007

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