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Assess, success;Letter

Professor Caroline Gipps gave an account (TES, February 20) of a study on diagnostic assessment by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam.

Much of their work was helpful. Teachers do need to make use of their own (diagnostic) assessments in order to improve learning. What is more difficult to understand is Caroline Gipps' assertion that the statutory national curriculum tests are preventing teachers from carrying out formative and diagnostic assessment.

There is much evidence that the current system of national curriculum testing has brought about a sharp focus on standards of performance and has enabled the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to highlight schools' key areas of strength and weakness in pupils' performance. Such a system has led to welcome improvements, particularly at KS2.

Caroline Gipps implicitly claims that national curriculum tests have only negative effects on what children learn and how they are taught. Not true: the KS2 science tests have helped define the primary science curriculum and what scientific knowledge should be used to support skills. The mathematics tests have provided strong and positive curriculum messages to schools.

QCA supports teachers in diagnostic assessment, and recognises the importance of teachers making their own assessments. So the national assessment programme both provides feedback to learners, as Caroline Gipps says it should, and provides robust data at a national level of performance against national standards.

DAVID HAWKER. Head of curriculum and assessment. QCA 45 Notting Hill Gate, London W11

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