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Assessment plans hit by GTC ambush

A fierce assault on the Scottish Executive's assessment proposals for 3-14s has been mounted by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

A meeting of the full council in Edinburgh on Wednesday approved a highly critical response which significantly changes its draft submission. This reflects the deep hostility of teachers on the council, who are overwhelmingly members of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

The GTC argues that the replacement of national tests with a national assessment bank "seriously undermines the professional integrity of teachers", that the proposed Scottish Survey of Attainment could be unworkable and that the new annual progress plan for pupils may prove unmanageable.

These are the three legs on which the Executive's assessment plans largely stand, but the GTC remains sceptical about the entire exercise. "The information gathered from this assessment process must meet the needs of pupils, parents, teachers, the school and society as a whole," its report states. "Each of these audiences requires different assessment information for different purposes."

The report then adds bluntly: "If it is the intention to introduce or develop a more relevant assessment strategy to meet the needs of all of these audiences, then we are in danger of introducing an over-complex strategy that could result in meeting the needs of no one."

These sentiments, if widely held, will dismay Peter Peacock, Education Minister, in particular. Mr Peacock's pitch to the profession was that he could reduce the assessment burden by streamlining the testing process, while at the same time checking on the performance of schools through the new attainment survey.

But the GTC's comments on the national assessment bank suggest the minister has not been persuasive enough. It effectively accuses him of not trusting teachers by proposing the introduction of one-off tests downloaded from the bank, which it regards as simply a revised version of national tests.

"If assessment is integral to the learning and teaching process, and teachers already have access to a wide range of appropriate materials to support teaching and assessment, then teachers do not require additional, separate assessment items to use with their pupils. They require advice and guidance on how to use the materials which they already have access to."

The council accuses the Executive of putting the cart before the horse by developing an assessment bank that would simply support what it sees as an outdated 5-14 curriculum. "It might have been more helpful if the revision of the curriculum preceded the introduction of any assessment," the GTC comments.

It goes on to plead for teachers to be given time and support to work more effectively with the assessment instruments they already have. The council accepts that testing is necessary but says it needs to build on what teachers do and "it needs to give teachers confidence that children, parents, schools and society trust their professional judgment".

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