Extra funding to make assessment a success

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Focus on professional development, but doubts still remain over delivery

Extra money is to be provided by the Scottish Government to help teachers change assessment practice.

Education Secretary Michael Russell appears to have acknowledged that schools and local authorities will need additional funding to carry out what are said to be more rigorous quality assurance and moderation arrangements, under the Curriculum for Excellence.

He has yet to put a figure on it, but the money is likely to be spent largely on continuing professional development, an area identified as a major priority if CfE is to work successfully.

Launching the new framework for assessment, Building the Curriculum 5, the final policy document to shape CfE, Mr Russell said its approach to quality assurance and moderation would require "significant activity at local authority and school level".

He added: "I have asked the Curriculum for Excellence management board to give me advice on the additional activity required. That will enable me to ensure the necessary resources are available."

Teachers' leaders welcomed his funding commitment, but questioned whether it could be guaranteed under the concordat agreement between local and national government, which gives councils significant leeway over spending.

Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "In these times of reduced budgets, falling teacher numbers and rising class sizes, the Scottish Government and local authorities must deliver significant additional funding if schools are to make a success of such an ambitious programme of curricular improvement."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said that "the right words were in place". Questions remained on delivery, however, such as how to measure literacy, and how the CfE levels would work out in practice.

School staffing was tighter than ever, which would make it difficult to carry out the external moderation of school assessment, Mr Cunningham added.

The CfE management board said it would now focus on providing a range of examples of assessments by early summer, and the online National Assessment Resource, by the autumn. The NAR will include assessment material developed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Learning and Teaching Scotland and teachers themselves.

Schools will be required to use a range of assessment methods, with a strong focus on formative assessment, and provide strong evidence that pupils are experiencing the "breadth, challenge and application" in their learning prescribed by CfE - while also developing a wide range of skills.

There will be a greater emphasis than previously on the assessment of literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, health and well-being, ICT and higher order skills such as creativity.

Rather than relying on national testing, however, the Government is putting its faith in a robust system of quality assurance and moderation to ensure consistent, national standards. Mr Flanagan warned that this would require a "change in the mind-set at local authority level".

The new approach will require teachers to discuss and share standards within their school and within their cluster; education authorities will have to deliver effective quality assurance as part of their commitments under the concordat agreement; and HMIE will aim to report on at least one school in every group of associated schools in any one year and review their arrangements for moderation.

When it comes to reporting, there are fears that this may increase teachers' paperwork. Staff may be forced to record some day-to-day learning and teaching activities, as well as complete profiles of individual and groups of learners when they have been doing in-depth class work. In addition, reports to parents will be more individualised and detailed than currently.

Nevertheless, the framework advises that approaches to recording should be:

  • manageable and practicable within day-to-day learning and teaching;
  • selective and focused on significant features of performance.

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