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National Curriculum

Assessment key principles


Assessment key principles

The following four key principles of assessment are designed to help schools take a fresh look at their practice and consider what the experience of assessment is like for their children.

  1. The child is at the heart of assessment

  2. Assessment needs to provide a view of the whole child

  3. Assessment is integral to teaching and learning

  4. Assessment includes reliable judgements about how children are performing related, where appropriate, to national standards.

The child at the heart of assessment

Good assessment:

  • helps develop successful learners

  • recognises strengths and areas for development and clearly identifies ways for children to make progress

  • is based around children’s needs and leads to improved attainment and progress

  • encourages children to take a central role in their own assessment.

It is clear that many children feel detached from the process of assessment. They view assessment as something that is done to them rather than something they have a stake in. The experience of assessment should motivate children and help them understand what assessment is for and how they can use it to develop as successful learners.

One key way of achieving this is to ensure that all children are actively involved in ongoing assessment conversations with their teachers to celebrate their achievements, recognise their strengths and identify priorities for future learning and how these could be achieved. Having a central role in their assessment helps children to take greater responsibility for their own learning, builds their confidence and helps them make progress.

Provides a view of the whole child

Assessment needs to provide a view of the whole child:

  • value and include a wide range of attitudes, dispositions and skills, as well as achievement in subjects

  • draw on a broad range of evidence, including beyond the school

  • involve those that know the child best – including parents, peers and members of the wider community.

The curriculum aims to develop the whole child and assessment should reflect this. Assessment then creates a rounded picture of the child that values the broad range of attitudes and skills found in the aims of the curriculum and essentials for learning and life. For assessment to be effective teachers need to draw on evidence across and beyond the school environment, and parent/carers, peers or members of the wider community could contribute to the assessment of a child’s achievement. Making these kinds of links can be particularly motivating for children as it helps them to connect the skills and aptitudes they show outside school with those needed to succeed in the classroom.

Integral to teaching and learning

Embedding assessment in teaching and learning:

  • is essential in creating personalised learning

  • helps teachers to be flexible enough to recognise learning as it happens

  • results in decisions and actions from both day-to-day interactions with children and through taking a periodic overview of progress.

To be effective, assessment needs to be flexible enough to recognise when learning is happening – which means understanding that the curriculum offers a wide range of experiences and activities, which can generate many different types of learning evidence. When assessment is at the heart of classroom teaching, it enables teachers to personalise discussions about the next steps for children and shape teaching to best suit their children's needs. Careful planning is required to make this effective – assessment information is most useful when children can take initiative in classes and pursue ideas for themselves rather than relying on their teacher's instruction.

In order to have an impact, assessment must result in decisions and actions for both the teacher and the child. This is achieved in the short term through day-to-day interaction between children and teachers, and in the medium and longer term by taking a periodic overview of progress that draws on a full range of evidence.

Related to national standards

Assessment includes reliable judgements about how children are performing, related where appropriate to national standards.


  • linking assessment to national standards is essential:
    - for consistency within and across schools
    - for tracking progress
    - for evaluating impact

  • schools’ assessment systems should support teachers and give them opportunities to develop their assessment expertise.

  • high quality teacher assessment is supported by assessing pupils’ progress (APP) guidelines.

National standards are an entitlement for all children. These standards ensure that assessment judgements are consistent across and between schools. They enable children to track their progress and they provide teachers with a way of evaluating the impact of their teaching. Teachers can develop their confidence and expertise in assessment by sharing and discussing with each other their evidence of children's progress. These opportunities to compare evidence will increase the reliability of teachers’ assessment judgements.

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