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Assessment FAQs

What is QCDA's vision for assessment in schools?

Assessment is one of the fundamentals of teaching and learning. It:

  • enables teachers to focus on learners’ needs

  • is essential to a well-planned curriculum

  • helps learners to understand their achievements and priorities for future learning.

QCDA’s work to develop assessment is based on these principles. QCDA recognises that national standards are an entitlement for learners, teachers and schools, and integral to national expectations of education.

Teachers’ judgements about pupils' achievements are the most fruitful source of information when identifying targets for improvement and providing feedback for pupils and their parents/carers. With an increasing focus on personalised learning and monitoring pupil progress, raising the status and profile of periodic teacher assessment, and linking it closely to national standards, is crucial in helping assessment inform and improve learning and teaching.

QCDA is working with schools, the National Strategies, and other partners to establish manageable and effective approaches to assessment to support these aims and develop teachers’ confidence and expertise. This includes:

  • providing guidance and materials to support effective strategies for day-to-day assessment, such as building knowledge of pupils’ strengths and areas for development into planning and teaching

  • ensuring that assessment judgements are based on a wide range of evidence

  • training in national standards to ensure that colleagues within and across schools share the same expectations of progress and achievements 

  • exploring ways to support schools’ and teachers’ judgements and guarantee standards through working with experts

  • ensuring that expertise in assessment is recognised in professional development

  • helping schools develop coherent assessment policies that support teachers and help learners make faster progress

  • developing banks of tests and tasks and mark schemes that support schools in assessing pupils' progress.

What is QCDA doing to support effective teacher assessment?   

Developing effective and manageable methods of teacher assessment clearly linked to national standards is essential to raising achievement and helping learners progress. QCDA is building on the approach in the 'Assessing pupils’ progress' (APP) materials, which have been successfully rolled out by the Secondary National Strategy to help teachers get the most out of assessment. They are now available for English, Mathematics and Science at key stage 3.

QCDA is working with schools to develop examples of effective ways of collecting evidence and providing feedback through assessment for learning and periodic assessments for subjects. The materials produced will show how assessment practice within and between subjects can support learning, embed standards and be part of effective teaching of the revised programmes of study.

They will:

  • demonstrate ways to collect evidence of pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding that can be seen in their talk, actions and outcomes

  • provide examples of manageable ways of collecting evidence

  • include exemplification of subject standards.

These are now available in the assessment section of the website.

In addition, to supplement the APP materials in English, maths and science, assessment tasks for foundation subjects are being developed to provide examples of evidence related to the level descriptions. These can be used to support periodic assessment by offering confirmation of teachers’ evaluation of the level their pupils are working at or to provide supplementary information on aspects of learners' performance. These tasks are now downloadable from the assessment guidance section on the foundation subjects homepages.

What changes have been made to end of key stage 2 testing?

Pupils will continue to sit externally assessed national curriculum tests in English and mathematics at the end of key stage 2. Following the 2009 report from the DCSF's expert group on assessment, there will be no end of key stage 2 tests in science from 2010. National sampling for key stage 2 science will be introduced from 2010. Schools and local authorities to be included in the national sample for science will be informed as early as possible in 2010. All selected schools will have a statutory requirement to participate in the sample tests which will be held on the Friday of key stage 2 test week in 2010. Further information on the statutory requirements for schools can be found in the Key stage 2 Assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA).

What changes have been made to end of key stage 3 testing?

The requirement for all end of key stage 3 pupils to sit tests in English, mathematics and science was removed in October 2008. Teacher assessment of pupils remains a statutory requirement. At the end of key stage 3, teachers summarise their judgements for each eligible pupil, taking into account the pupil’s progress and performance throughout the key stage. They need to determine:

  • a level for each attainment target in English, mathematics, science and modern foreign languages
  • an overall subject level in each of the core and non-core subjects.

Teachers should base their judgements on the level descriptions in the national curriculum.

Further information on the statutory requirements for schools can be found in the Key stage 3 Teacher assessment and reporting arrangements (TARA).

National sampling at key stage 3 will be introduced in due course.

Where does the single level test pilot fit in?

From September 2009, approximately 200 primary schools in 10 local authorities will be involved in an extension to the single level test (SLT) pilot, where pupils from year 3 to year 6 can be entered for ‘single level’ tests in reading, writing or mathematics on two occasions each year. Teachers enter pupils for a test if they are judged to be operating at that level. Pilot schools will use the APP assessment criteria to support them in making accurate and consistent judgements about pupils’ achievement and progress. The single level tests are flexible and enable teachers to enter pupils for tests when they are ready.

Schools participating in the extended pilot are no longer required to participate in the end of key stage 2 tests in mathematics. The single level test result achieved by each pupil will be used for reporting purposes.

Further information on the single level tests pilot.

When will APP Primary Science materials be published?

Development of APP materials for Primary Science has involved a range of subject and educational experts, who worked with a small selection of pilot schools to coordinate, develop and refine the materials.  Publication of APP materials for primary science is expected in early 2010 and further information will be made available on the QCDA website in due course.

Will Assessing Pupils' Progress materials be published for the foundation subjects at key stage 3?

The QCDA has been working with subject experts and pilot secondary schools to compile exemplification materials for foundations subjects at key stage 3. These materials will use criteria closely based on the level descriptions for each subject, but taking a similar approach to existing APP materials. We will be refining these materials over the coming months and intend to publish them on the QCDA website in summer 2010.  Full APP materials for foundation subjects at key stage 3 will be published in due course.

Are there plans to make APP statutory?

APP is not statutory and there are no plans to change its status. However, APP is designed to support teachers in making periodic assessments of their pupils' attainment which can be used to inform and improve planning, to provide information to discuss with pupils and parents and to refine targets for improvement. It may also help teachers in arriving at more consistent and accurate judgements when they undertake statutory teacher assessment at the end of key stages 1, 2 and 3.

What has happened to the level descriptions?

The level descriptions for levels 4 to 8 and exceptional performance have been modified and are available on the QCDA website. The aim of the modifications is to complement the revisions to the programmes of study and maintain standards.

The level descriptions for levels 1 to 3 are currently under review.

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