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Letters extra: Assessment assessment needed

It is encouraging that Michael Tomlinson is reviewing the examination system if it means that the number of examinations will be reduced. It is also encouraging that basic skills will not be forgotten - not only did Sir Ron Dearing give strong support to them, but so has the CBI: "A-level qualifications must be strengthened with a range of core skills such as communication and teamwork if young people are to be equipped for the labour market of the 21st century."

During the nineties, teachers using Diploma of Achievement material were trained to assess communication and other skills on a three-point scale (2-4-6): 6 for something deserving commendation, 4 for an average performance and 2 for showing some merit. This assessment system was appreciated and understood by teachers and pupils alike. The Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board spoke about "trusting the teachers" in the assessment process. The system broke down when it was decided to introduce a 10-point, and even a 20-point scale, and each candidate had to make three separate presentations. Bureaucracy took over.

A large variety of key skills was assessed in those years: presentation skills, numeracy, learning to learn, teamwork and so on. It was fun in the classroom, it met what the CBI, Sir Ron Dearing and David Blunkett wanted, and it fitted into the general studies slot in sixth form as long as that slot existed. But it needs a straightforward method of assessment if students and teachers are not be put off.nbsp;No doubt Mike Tomlinson will be bearing this in mind.

John L Lewis OBE Director of the Diploma of Achievement project Malvern, Worcs

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