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Don't replace assessment with 'quick fix' testing

The specification of key skills is moving closer to definite proposals that will determine the structure and nature of the assessment of the skills of learners.

The importance of the developments of key skills for the future prosperity of the country has been rightly emphasised in the Dearing report. The way in which key skills are taught and assessed will be critical to their successful introduction. This is especially true of application of number, recognised in Dearing as the most difficult key skill to deliver successfully.

The National Association for Numeracy and Mathematics in Colleges (NANAMIC) has tested the opinion of its members on the kinds of assessment processes they would like to see for application of number within general national vocational qualifications.

The unequivocal message was that the current assessment procedures need to be revised and that it is essential to maintain the drive to embed the development of application of number skills within vocational contexts.

NANAMIC members believe that a combination of externally set key skills assignments and portfolio assessment, internally and externally moderated, would increase confidence in the reliability of application of number assessment.

We hope the introduction of key skills builds on the excellent work of many colleges that have embedded application of number within contexts that are real to students, and that are valid exemplars of the use of number in vocational situations. It is, therefore, essential to retain a significant element of "portfolio assessment" for application of number.

At the same time, there is real concern about the rigour of assessment processes in which the ability of students to apply numbers in real contexts is not always assessed reliably.

NANAMIC members support the need for colleges to develop more rigorous internal verification of application of number, and for awarding bodies to develop more rigorous external verification of key skills. We believe that specialist application of number external verifiers are needed to enforce consistent standards across different GNVQ programmes.

It would be a mistake to replace the current assessment regime, which has its problems, with the "quick fix" of dependence on externally set tests. We need to ensure that portfolio assessment features in assessment plans. This must be backed by clear, rigorous criteria for the verification of the standards attained by students.


Chair (NANAMIC) West Kent College Brook Street Tonbridge Kent

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