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Assessment is out in the open

Assessment should no longer be seen as "the secret garden" in the way that the curriculum once was, a conference aimed at encouraging greater parental involvement heard on Wednesday.

Sheila Wolfendale of the psychology school at the University of East London made the comment as she called for an ethical code of practice governing assessment. This would spell out the rights of all parties and clarify the benefits for children.

Professor Wolfendale suggested that a code should also cover issues such as invasion of privacy, misrepresentation of fact, lack of due consultation and use of inappropriate assessment measures.

She stated: "Its very existence should reduce the likelihood of these potentially adversarial issues leading to conflict or litigation. A shared and open agenda represents the most positive starting point for teachers and parents to engage in assessment - an alliance for children."

Donna Murray, development officer with Learning and Teaching Scotland, which organised the conference, told The TES Scotland that focus groups were among a variety of strategies used by some of the 22 schools taking part in a project on promoting partnership with parents on assessment.

Ms Murray heads the project, which covers 10 authorities. She said: "These groups gave parents and teachers the chance to have face-to-face discussions about how the schools communicated with parents. Everyone involved was really positive about the benefits."

Carolyn Hutchison, head of the assessment branch in the Scottish Executive Education Department, said "open space" programmes run in August and September to glean the views of parents underlined their view that "assessment should be about common sense and not a rocket science".

Assessment, Ms Hutchison stated, should encompass inclusion and equity. The Executive's review reflected its intention to shift the emphasis away from "sorting and grading" back to learning and pupils. There had to be a streamlined structure that allowed parents, as well as teachers and pupils, to have feedback on classroom learning.

The "reporting to parents and others" project includes exploring the use of ICT to support parent involvement and how to meet the challenge of engaging parents after children reach secondary school.

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