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New skills tests dropped

But workload fears remain over teacher assessment despite new timescale. Karen Thornton reports

New skills tests for 10-year-olds have been dropped and a longer timescale proposed for the introduction of moderated teacher assessment in Wales.

But critics say the moderation arrangements will add to teacher workload, and are concerned about how they will dovetail with changes to the national curriculum from 2008.

Statutory skills tests for Year 5 pupils in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving - aimed at improving transition to secondary education - were a key recommendation of the Daugherty assessment review group.

Its 2004 report led to the abolition of compulsory national tests (Sats) for 11 and 14-year-olds in Wales. It proposed that these pupils' attainment should be measured by teacher assessment only.

However, teachers' judgements should be moderated to ensure consistency within and between schools - via secondaries working with clusters of feeder primaries at key stage 2, and by external accreditation of secondary schools' assessment procedures at KS3.

The Assembly government has been piloting beefed-up KS23 assessment along these lines. But it has dropped skills tests and delayed Daugherty's Y5 skills profiles to 200910, in a consultation document published this week.

A government spokesperson said it wanted to avoid recreating a "tests culture". The Y5 profile, to be shared with parents and secondaries, would maintain the Daugherty focus on progression across transition. The timetable for phasing in moderated teacher assessment was intended to address workload and manageability concerns, he added.

Gareth Jones, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, remains concerned about workload and "one-size-fits-all" clustering arrangements. Welsh-medium secondaries, for example, often draw pupils from dozens of primaries across wide geographical areas.

But he welcomed the extended timetable. He said: "We had raised concerns about changing the assessment system when the curriculum changes in 2008.

The proposals indicate those concerns have been considered."

Geraint Davies, policy officer of teachers' union the NASUWT Cymru, warned that assessment pilots were already generating extra work for teachers.

"We were promised a streamlined assessment system. But these proposals could easily increase the workload of teachers at the end of key stages."

The consultation document says primary schools will receive new optional assessment materials for English, Welsh, maths and science this month, and national guidelines on moderating teacher assessment in autumn 2007.

They will be expected to implement internal moderation of teachers'

judgements from springsummer 2008, and to be involved in cluster moderation arrangements a year later.

Secondary schools will receive national guidance in autumn 2007. All core subject teams will be expected to have provided samples of pupils' work for external moderation by summer 2008.

At the same time, pupil-level data from non-core subjects will be collected for the first time, with all non-core subject teams externally moderated by summer 2010.

National curriculum assessment arrangements for key stages 2 and 3, consultations close January 12, see new.wales.gov.uk

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