Are the plans to assess worth it?

7th July 2006 at 01:00
Things have gone very quiet on the Daugherty review's proposals for new, externally marked Year 5 skills tests. We also do not know a great deal about how teachers' assessments at the end of Y6 will be moderated, following the abolition of Sats in Wales.

Secondary schools receive from primaries important pastoral information about new pupils, as well as teacher-assessed levels in the core subjects at Y6. However, the problem with the current national curriculum levels is that they are too broad, and can hide progress and mask deterioration.

It is difficult explaining to a parent that it is entirely normal for a child to still be on the same level, even after a year of inspirational teaching. For that reason, many secondary schools now use sub-levels - level 4c, 4b, 4a, and so on (with level 4 being the standard expected of 11-year-olds).

So secondary schools that use sub-levels need an accurate and robust end of key stage 2 sub-level in each of the core subjects to use as a baseline.

This would then be used to formulate end-of-year and end-of-KS3 targets for pupils. The present system and the Daugherty proposals will not provide such a baseline and, without it, setting pupil targets and tracking their progress becomes difficult.

Even at present, many pupils arrive at secondary school with no assessment information. I suspect it would be more effective if pupils sat computer-marked tests in the core subjects in the first few weeks of secondary schooling.

There are now a few schemes offering computer-marked "transitional tests"

to generate a baseline sub-level. For the core subjects, they also offer end-of-unit tests or tasks which are designed to be sub-levelled and are additive. So tracking, recording and reporting pupil progress is automatic.

As these schemes are online and web-based, they require computer access for pupils at some times - surely not an insurmountable hurdle. They also tick many of the "assessment for learning" boxes, with instant feedback and correction, advice on how to improve, and important information for teachers on, for example, the percentage of pupils who could not answer the question on gravity.

We do not yet know how any of this will be affected by the national, externally-marked Y5 key skills tests. But are we about to expend a great deal of time and effort on a system which will not deliver what schools need?

Paul Howard Davies is a teacher in Wrexham

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