Jack's generation game

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Neil Munro reports on the debateover the Education Minister's revamped assessment regime

THE new streamlined assessment regime for the pre-school and 5-14 stages will involve a shake-up in the way teachers record pupils' performance and report it to parents, Jack McConnell, Education Minister, announced in a parliamentary statement last week.

An action group, representative of the profession, is to be set up to develop alternatives to the current system which all MSPs who took part in the ensuing debate agreed had to be overhauled - even if they disagreed about what exactly Mr McConnell was announcing.

As indicated in last week's TES Scotland, Mr McConnell confirmed he was combining the system of national tests at the five stages of 5-14 with the Assessment of Achievement Programme which samples 5 per cent of each age group in P4, P7 and S2 every three years in English, maths and science.

The AAPwill be extended to include core skills such as information technology, problem-solving and working with others. Results will be used to validate and confirm the information reported by schools from what Mr McConnell described as "the next generation of national assessments".

It is understood teachers will be used to mark the AAP tests, but not the results from their own authority, and that at least one teacher from each primary-secondary cluster will be involved. They should then have a better idea of the standards expected which will inform their own testing.

The action group would look at ways of using information technology to support assessment, which may involve giving teachers electronic access to assessment databases through the National Grid for Learning.

Mr McConnell made it clear that teachers would continue to make the "crucial judgments" about how well pupils are learning, although he has no intention of going back to "a secretive education service where information about children's progress never left the school and rarely got to parents".

He would none the less consult on the best way of analysing and presenting test results "to ensure those achieving continuous improvement are recognised and bald statistics don't make good schools look like failures".

In his speech, Mr McConnell admitted he was "astonished" by the different ways in which pupil progress is recorded and reported - three separate transition records, personal learning plans, records of needs, individual education programmes, progress files which are replacing records of achievement, report cards which differ from school to school, along with National Qualifications, national tests and the Assessment of Achievement Programme.

Mr McConnell said: "Twelve in all. Confused? So are most people."

He promised to issue guidance this year on report cards and parental information. There would be a review of the best practice in the design and content of report cards across Scotland.

The aim would be to make reports for parents and pupils easy to administer but "helpful and informative" at the same time.

Leader, page 22

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