GTC CONSULTATION ON ASSESSMENT AND TESTING
Over the academic year 2006-07 the GTC held
a series of consultative seminars in order to present its proposals
for changes to the assessment system to teachers, head teachers,
parents and others and to receive feedback. Events were held in
Leeds, Bristol, Manchester and London as well as a national conference
in March 2007. This appendix is a summary of the views expressed.
GTC's bank of tests/tasks
Teachers welcomed the bank of tests because
they felt they would free up time for teachers to enjoy teaching
and pupils to enjoy learning. They wanted to know in detail how
and when they would be administered, and by whom. The new tests
could eliminate "teaching to the test". They could be
a spur to improving the quality of teacher assessment, particularly
if teachers had input into their design. The tests at primary
phase would need to be matched to specific learning objectives
and primary strategy materials. Teachers felt that the tests should
be able to define what pupils can and cannot do rather than assigning
a level. The DfES and other bodies must take time to trial new
initiatives and systems before they expect teachers and schools
to put them into practice. Teachers were clear that any new system
that resulted in more assessment and less teaching was suspect
and they sought reassurance that this was not the case with the
bank of tests.
GTC BANK OF
Will teachers have enough time to
deal with the extra workload?
Who will be responsible for writing
How will special needs be dealt with?
If a special education needs (SEN) pupil is extremely slow to
arrive at a position where they are ready to be tested they may
emerge from Key Stage (KS) 4 with very few benchmarks, if any.
Will the tests measure knowledge
Will there be tests for the gifted
Would the tests measure in levels
or in standard scores?
How different will the tests/tasks
be to the current national tests? "We don't want SATs look-alikes".
Is yearly testing effective? If more
testing was more frequent it would not be realistic to test every
pupil in every subject. Would a bank of tests not just allow some
teachers to test even more?
Can this system work in secondary
education as effectively as it might in primary?
Teachers had concerns over how well Assessment
for Learning (AfL) is embedded in schools and how rigorously it
is being used. Knowledge of AfL can be very mixed. It was felt
that teachers' professional judgement was key to successfully
implementing AfL because teachers would need a thorough and detailed
knowledge of their pupils. A culture shift was necessary to dispel
the sense of distrust of assessments at change of phase and explain
how AfL fits into test culture. If schools adopted AfL they would
need to demonstrate to pupils and parents that standards are being
assured and that the process is transparent.
Teachers also felt there was insufficient knowledge
and recognition of pupils' learning speeds and styles. Many questioned
the wisdom of a knowledge-based, rather than learning-based, curriculum.
Teachers and teaching assistants need support
and opportunities to raise their skills in using AfL and the GTC's
bank of tests. A useful tool for teachers and others would be
the networks of teachers within local authorities to further assessment
and help develop teacher confidence. This would ensure that what
is done in each school is comparable and consistent.
Formative assessment is the bedrock because
it is the tool for taking pupil learning forward. The process
should be about achievable tasks which show where pupils' difficulties
are for their future benefit. Over-assessment will alienate certain
pupils. We should not forget the case for creativity and children's
enjoyment of learning. We should be aiming to make each pupil
aware and responsible for their learning, for instance through
"Assessment should be about finding out
what the children know so we can move them forward. It's not about
a single test result, so stop national testing ands trust in teachers'
Teachers were curious about how personalised
learning, with its emphasis on progression and assessment at the
pupil's own pace could be translated to the secondary model. Assessment
for pupils with SEN or disabilities should be a particular focus.
Teachers expressed a wish for less emphasis on national testing
and more faith in personalised learning and formative assessment.
The current testing regime
Teachers questioned the value of Primary KS
tests which, they said, distort teaching and are not effective
in helping pupils to learn. Teachers also thought the marking
scheme for national KS tests is too prescriptive and narrowly
based on key words, with no scope for pupil creativity. They considered
the system impersonal and that it inhibits curriculum enrichment.
The outcomes of the tests, particularly at KS3 carry so much weight
that teachers are increasingly teaching to the test, making them
feel like trainers, not teachers.
The end of KS2 and KS3 tests do not, the teachers
said, provide realistic information about children. These tests
are demoralising for children who do not have strengths in the
core areas but may have skills and talents in non-tested curricular
areas. For special schools, tests are a mere paper exercise and
do not show multi-sensory, multiple intelligence learning.
Teachers supported the new style KS1 SAT/assessment
system because of the greater emphasis on teacher assessment and
would support its extension to other year groups.
"If I could change one thing about assessment
it would be abolish KS2 tests. This would alleviate pressure on
children and staff. It would also allow upper KS2 children to
enjoy learning and explore their natural curiosity".
Teacher professional judgement and resources for
continuing professional development
It was felt that teacher confidence had been
eroded over time and that the GTC's proposals would help to restore
it. Trust in professionalism should extend to teaching assistants
and other school staff as well as teachers. Teachers also pointed
out that many teachers had only ever known national tests for
teacher assessment, so training in new ways of working was crucial.
Teachers identified the need for moderation
training, and the time to do it, as necessary for an effective
rebalancing of assessment; along with more input on AfL in initial
teacher training as newly qualified teachers' (NQTs) understanding
can be limited.
School level accountability
The majority of teachers who attended the GTC
events thought that league tables were flawed and that they distorted
teaching. The levels within the key stages did not work. Without
performance tables, teachers thought it would be possible to network
more effectively between schools, eliminate divisive competition
between schools and develop better collaboration between primary
and secondary schools.
While teachers recognised that performance tables
can have a role in focusing on school improvement and in parents'
choice of school, it was also felt that a wider variety of information
should be available. Ofsted inspections, local knowledge, cultural
considerations and proximity are also factors influencing parents.
Some teachers favoured the use of portfolios of evidence of pupils'
achievements to confirm teacher judgements. The development of
IT-based "Learning Platforms" would give parents the
ability to access pupil reports and assessment records. The School
Profile was seen as an effective accountability mechanism that
should be more widely promoted.
Teachers felt that the system is currently very
accountable but meaningful information is not communicated well
to parents. A more personalised approach was needed. It was noted
that the independent sector is skilled in communicating with parents
and engaging them in dialogue and could offer lessons to be learnt
by the maintained sectors.
"Parents should be entitled to access
any information about the school when they need it".
"Schools need to be able, without risk,
to be honest about when things are not going well. They also need
to have access to data that helps them work on a level playing
field and fee part of a local community".
Teachers felt that they are sufficiently accountable
in terms of the quality of information; it is the quality and
nature of the information that needs to be addressed. Teachers
are adept at assessment because they know their pupils well, but
are judged on external test results. It was suggested that schools
could be paired nationally to moderate each other and exploit
the on-line facilities available.
"The teacher and the school are best
placed to know their children through using their professional
judgement. Children are not commodities or `raw material'".
Teachers thought a culture is growing in which
all children are expected to be above average. This pressure is
unrealistic and not helpful to pupils and teaching.
It was felt that an appropriate accountability
model would be strengthened and supported school self-evaluation,
validated by Ofsted. There was a general desire that Ofsted be
more supportive and consistent but frustration that performance
tablesoffered little of practical diagnostic use to schools.
"Data to compare schools is valued by
heads and local authorities in managing their own specific systems.
This data should be preserved but not necessarily in the form
of league tables".
Teachers were curious about how cohort sampling
would workhow pupils would be selected, how frequently
they would be sampled and on what criteria. It was observed that
universities self-moderate and regulate the awarding of degrees
and it could be that they offer elements which could be incorporated
into the cohort model used.
Some teachers were concerned about the time
and cost involved in cohort sampling. They wanted to know how
school effectiveness would be judged in the absence of school
standards data. They were also concerned about sampling pupils
with special needs. Others welcomed the proposal on the basis
that it could provide comparative data to moderate each pupil
against a range of curricular areas, skills and understanding
of aspects of development not currently able to be assessed such
as pupil attitudes, aspects of Every Child Matters and
"We are enthusiastic that this system
may enable a broader, more accurate assessment base across the
"This potentially sounds better, cheaper,
"These proposals would lead to a more
"Wonderful ideathis will make
teaching more enjoyable".
"How can we persuade the Government?"