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Personal learning plan upsets heads

The Scottish Executive has issued details of its new assessment and reporting arrangements for children aged three to 14, which will include personal learning planning and giving children regular feedback about their learning.

The circular states that Scottish Ministers expect schools to introduce the new formative and summative forms of assessment - including personal learning planning - starting from the new school session in 2005-06.

However, the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, representing primary heads, is maintaining its position that the new system is "very resource intensive" and that headteachers should not embark upon personal learning planning in their schools unless appropriate resources are in place to provide classroomcover for teachers engaged in the scheme.

The association also argues that, for PLP to be workable in the long term, class sizes will have to be reduced at all stages. The Educational Institute of Scotland is also to contact its members for feedback on whether the new arrangements carry additional workload implications.

"We have concerns, but are not opposed to the principle of the new assessment and reporting arrangements," an EIS spokesman said. "We will bemonitoring it to see how workable it is."

He added that the new system would only be effective if there were the resources available to support teachers, including time made available within the school day.

Substantial numbers of schools had already been involved in the piloting of personal learning planning, but not one single template of a plan had emerged from that process, the institute spokesman added.

He said that, in personal learning planning, there need not necessarily be a written document at the end of the process. What was important was that there was a plan and a system of accountability.

The Executive believes, how-ever, that personal learning planning should be "manageable, realistic and sustainable."

In its guidance, the Scottish Executive states: "At an appropriate time (or times) during each session, the school or centre should provide a summary of the information gathered through assessment and personal learning planning, in a report to parents.

This will sum up what the child has aimed for and achieved during the year, and set out for children, parentscarers and the next teacher what needs to be done to ensure continued progress into the next stage of education, in a suitable format agreed by the school or centre."

The guidance adds that school and centre managers should put in place arrangements for children to discuss their learning regularly with a member of staff.

It says there will be both local moderation of teachers' assessment of pupils and external methods for teachers to check their judgements against national standards.

Local moderation, to enable teachers to "share the standard", will involve groups of teachers from different classrooms and schools in gathering examples of children's work in particular aspects of the curriculum, agreeing on the criteria for assessing them, carrying out assessment against the criteria, and harmonising judgements about the qua-lity of the work.

Teachers will also be able to use the new online national assessments, which have replaced national tests and have already been used in the Scottish Assessment of Achievement Programme (AAP), as an external check of their judgement.

The new assessment arrangements for Scotland mark a further step away from the English national testing system of SATs (standardised assessment tests) and their reliance on tests at fixed stages in a child's schooling.

The Scottish Executive is standing firmly by its policy: "The children's results on national assessments should be only part of a range of evidence teachers consider to arrive at judgements about levels of attainment.

"No decision about a child's attainment or future learning should be made or reported on the basis of a single assessment or test score as it will not, on its own, be sufficiently reliable for that purpose."


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