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Dearing settlement `too flawed' to last

Sir Ron Dearing's review has failed to solve the problems of national curriculum assessment, says the former chairman of the Curriculum Council for Wales in a new book.

Richard Daugherty, professor of education at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, believes the Dearing review was a considerable achievement in political terms, but will prove to be "too deeply flawed in its recommendations on assessment to be a secure basis for future policy".

Despite substantial tinkering, the Government's view of how assessment should be done and what it aims to achieve has not been rethought since the original proposals of 1987, and remains confused, he argues. "Seven years later, in the wake of the Dearing Review, opposition to the modified policy on national assessment was, if anything, more firmly entrenched and the system itself was only in the early stages of recuperating from its near collapse in 1993, " he says in National Curriculum Assessment: a review of policy 1987-1994.

"That so many essential features of national assessment had still to be defined in a way which was both clearly understood and practicable was a sad reflection on the national assessment policies of successive Governments and on the process of policy-making. What form should national tests take and which attainments should they attempt to measure? Where does the assessing done day in, day out by teachers fit into the national picture, if at all? How much effort and resources should be put in to training for, and moderating of, teacher assessment? To what use or uses should the evidence, obtained from teacher assessment andor the tests, be put?" he writes.

Sir Ron Dearing, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority chairman, has not put forward a new model for national assessment, Professor Daugherty states. "There are many specific proposals, but there is no overview of purposes, practices and outcomes nor a vision of how the many components of the system are expected to interact with each other."

Professor Daugherty believes the 10-level scale based on broad targets, which Sir Ron decided to keep, is suitable for diagnosing pupils through teachers' own assessments, but not for tests meant to provide information about national standards National Curriculum Assessment: a review of policy 1987-1994 is published by Falmer Press, Pounds 36 and Pounds 13.95 (paperback).

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