Teacher assessment can be as reliable a guide as national tests, a study for the government's test regulator south of the border has found. Research into 91 secondaries, using an enhanced form of teacher assessment in English, found their judgments of pupils broadly in line with those of tests.
Moreover, the new system showed up weaknesses in learning that the tests had not identified - and therefore could be used to raise achievement.
The findings support the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in its battle with the Department for Education and Skills over the future of national testing. Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) is being introduced in secondaries across the country and is about to be piloted in 60 primaries.
Developed by the QCA to measure progress in English, assessment is built into day-to-day classroom activities, rather than work done under exam conditions.
There are guidelines on how to make structured assessments from normal work in reading and writing and how a bank of tasks can be woven into lessons.
They are designed so that teachers can identify which aspects of a pupil's or group's learning needs attention. The material so far prepared includes complete lesson plans.
The QCA claims that the judgments the system produces pinpoint the strengths and the weaknesses as well as measuring attainment. Where teachers' judgments differed from test results, teachers tended to be more favourable. But this, the report stated, may be because staff can identify attainments that tests may overlook.