Assessment, Testing and Reporting 3-14: Consultation on Partnership Commitments

DescriptionConsultation on proposed changes to arrangements for assessment, testing and reporting for children aged 3-14
ISBN0-7559-0978-X
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateSeptember 25, 2003

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ASSESSMENT, TESTING AND REPORTING 3-14 CONSULTATION ON PARTNERSHIP COMMITMENTS

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CONTENTS

MINISTER'S FOREWORD
INTRODUCTION
PART 1 BACKGROUND TO THE CONSULTATION
National Priorities in Education
PART 2 RATIONALE
PART 3 OPTIONS FOR CONSULTATION
Section A Replacing reports with Annual Progress Plans
Annual Progress Plans: your views
Section B Replacing the current provision of national tests with a National Assessment Bank
Replacing national tests: your views
Section C Measuring improvement in overall attainment through a Scottish Survey of Achievement rather than relying on the annual 5-14 survey
National monitoring of attainment: your views

MINISTER'S FOREWORD

This consultation paper sets out proposals which aim to:

  • Ensure the highest educational standards in all schools
  • Introduce more meaningful yet equally rigorous ways of assessing pupils
  • Give parents and pupils more meaningful reports on progress
  • Provide more time for teachers to teach and put more trust in their professional judgement
  • Reduce unnecessary pressures on teachers and pupils

One of the most frequently raised issues in the National Debate in Education was assessment. The common view was that assessment for monitoring purposes often dominated the classroom at the expense of assessment for learning. Parents, pupils, teachers and headteachers all wanted that balance to be redressed: to put the focus back on assessment as part of learning and teaching to ensure that all children can reach their full potential, while maintaining the highest standards. Assessment of pupils' performance needs to be an enduring part of the system, but its focus in the classroom needs to be on supporting learning.

The Assessment is for Learning development programme has already made some progress in shifting the emphasis towards assessment to support learning. In Educating for Excellence, the response to the National Debate, clear commitments were given to move away from assessment which simply grades pupils at each stage to assessment which helps pupils understand how they can improve. These commitments were re-iterated in A Partnership for a Better Scotland, 2003 which stated that the Executive would 'provide more time for learning by simplifying and reducing assessment, ending the current system of national tests for 5-14 year olds'.

I also need to ensure that we, as policy makers, seek continuous improvement in standards and assess the performance of the system as a whole. This paper suggests better ways of doing this by introducing the new Scottish Survey of Achievement which builds on the current Assessment of Achievement Programme. This new Survey will offer the opportunity to gather more accurate and detailed information as part of evaluating how the system as a whole is performing. The approach will be a more rigorous assessment of national performance than the measures relied upon to date.

This consultation paper is an important step in meeting these commitments. It presents a number of options on Annual Progress Plans, national testing, and how we collect and publish attainment data at a national level. It provides an opportunity for you to give your views on these issues and I urge you to respond to this consultation.

Educating for Excellence and the Partnership Agreement look forward to a time when assessment in Scotland's schools is rooted firmly in support for learning and teaching and in having robust approaches to assessing the performance of the education system as a whole. I am committed to making this a reality and this consultation brings that reality ever closer.

Signature

PETER PEACOCK

INTRODUCTION

This document asks for your views on the commitments about arrangements for the assessment and reporting of pupils' learning and achievements made by Scottish Ministers in A Partnership for a Better Scotland 1 The Partnership document sets out the principles which guide the development and implementation of policies for Scotland.

This consultation document is divided into three main parts.

Part 1 gives some background information about the partnership agreement and developments already being planned.

Part 2 sets out some of the issues, and offers a rationale for the proposed changes.

Part 3 sets out options for the proposed changes and asks you to record your views.

You are invited to read the document carefully, consider the advantages and disadvantages of the various options, and then complete the boxes at the end of each of Sections A-C. There are spaces provided for you to comment or suggest other options if you wish to do so.

If you prefer to complete the form on-line, an electronic version of the document can be found on the Scottish Executive website at www.scotland.gov.uk/ publications

The consultation will take place during October - December 2003. Please return your views no later than Friday 19 December 2003. Responses should be returned to the Scottish Executive, either by post or by e-mail, as follows:

Assessment is for Learning
Area 2-A Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

AifL@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

For further information about the consultation, you can contact the Assessment is for Learning team in Victoria Quay, tel. 0131-244 0418.

Once the period for consultation is over, responses will be considered and analysed by an independent consultant, who will report on the findings in March 2004.

Confidentiality

It is normal practice for responses to consultation papers to be made publicly available, unless respondents request that their comments remain confidential.

If you would like your comments to remain confidential, please tick the box at the end of Sections A-C.

Acknowledgements

All responses will be acknowledged, either in writing or electronically. However, please note that in view of the size and nature of the consultation exercise, it will not be possible to respond individually to comments received.

PART 1: BACKGROUND TO THE CONSULTATION

Assessment, testing, record-keeping and reporting to parents have been the subject of considerable interest and activity in the past few years, but particularly since the Scottish Executive started its work in 1999.

  • In 1999 HM Inspectors of Schools conducted a review of practice in assessment in the pre-school, primary and early secondary school stages. A Review of Assessment in Pre-school and 5-14 was published in December 1999.
  • Consultation on the Review took place during 2000. Glasgow University Faculty of Education analysed the responses and published a report, Improving Assessment in Scotland, in December 2000.
  • On 20 September 2001 the responses to consultation were followed up with a debate on assessment in the Scottish Parliament, Effective Assessment for Scotland's Schools.
  • Following the debate, the Minister set up an Assessment Action Group to oversee a development programme. The purpose of the programme was 'to build a streamlined and coherent system of assessment to ensure that parents, teachers and other professionals would have the feedback they need on pupils' learning and development needs'.
  • The development programme, Assessment is for Learning, has been running pilot projects in schools across Scotland since January 2002.
  • In the National Debate which began in 2002 a number of issues were raised about assessment, testing and reporting to parents. Educating for Excellence, published in January 2003, sets out the Executive plans for responding to those issues.

The issues raised in the assessment review and consultation, and in the National Debate, all share a common theme: putting young people at the heart of education, and improving the information and feedback they and their teachers and parents need to support learning effectively. All those who have participated have emphasised that good communication is essential if assessment is to be fully effective in supporting learning in this way.

Pupils need good feedback and guidance to help them reflect on the quality of their work and decide what they need to do next. Teachers need good information and feedback so that they can help young people to build on what they know, sort out any problems and provide suitable programmes and resources. Parents and others involved need to understand how they can help and support the young people in their care. Schools and local authority managers need to know how well young people are learning and what kinds of difficulties they are experiencing, so that they can make sure that everything possible is done to support them. Ministers need a national picture of attainment to monitor the performance of the education system.

The proposed new system will benefit each of these groups:

  • Pupils will receive better feedback, leading to improved achievement, as the emphasis will be placed squarely on formative assessment;
  • Teachers will benefit from a simplified system and support from the National Assessment Bank. The withdrawal of the 5-14 survey should ensure an end to inappropriate assessment and free up time to teach;
  • Parents will benefit from clearer information in the form of Annual Progress Plans and through Personal Learning Plans will be more involved in their children's education;
  • Schools and local authority managers will not be steered to form narrow judgements about a child's progress on the basis of National Test results, but will be guided to take a broader view of progress;
  • Ministers will have more robust, rigorous and reliable information on national performance through the introduction of the Scottish Survey of Achievement.

These new arrangements for assessment will build largely on the work of the Assessment Action Group, set up to oversee the Assessment is for Learning Development programme. This programme was established with the aim of providing a streamlined and coherent system of assessment which would ensure that all partners in education have the feedback they need on pupils' learning and schools' programmes.

More information about the assessment review, the consultation and the assessment development programme can be found on the Assessment is for Learning website, www.LTScotland.org.uk/assess.

Educating for Excellence can be found on the Scottish Executive website at www.scotland.gov.uk/nationaldebate

A Partnership for a Better Scotland, 2003

The partnership agreement published in May 2003 set out a number of commitments relating to assessment, testing and reporting. The commitments are listed in the box below.

A Partnership for a Better Scotland, 2003: Assessment, testing, monitoring and reporting

Commitments to:

  • promote assessment methods that support learning and teaching
  • improve the transitions between nursery and primary and primary and secondary education so that the system fits the needs of the children
  • work to strengthen the link between parents and schools, improving the quality of information that parents receive about their children's progress at every stage, replacing reports with Annual Progress Plans
  • provide more time for learning by simplifying and reducing assessment, ending the current system of national tests for 5-14 year olds
  • measure improvement in overall attainment through broad surveys rather than relying on the national tests

Progress towards the commitments

Arrangements to deliver on many aspects of these commitments are already well advanced through the Assessment is for Learning programme 2, and through the National Priorities. The assessment programme has emphasised professional classroom practice in assessment to support learning, basing its work on recent international research. There has been considerable progress made on the development and management of Personal Learning Plans, whose aim is to improve the quality of information about the progress and achievements of individual pupils as they move through school, particularly at points of transition. The programme has also been investigating effective ways of establishing good partnership between schools and parents to support children's learning.

A number of schools have been exploring a wide range of approaches to assessment. This work has helped teachers to gain confidence in using classroom observations, performance descriptors and assessment criteria to evaluate pupils' progress and attainment, rather than relying too heavily on written assessments and pencil-and-paper tests. Participating schools have also been exploring ways of quality assuring assessment judgements and 'sharing the standard' through local moderation (discussion amongst teachers of marked examples of pupils' work) rather than by relying on comparisons of marks or grades.

Work on National Priorities in Education is encouraging schools to use published Quality Indicators and Performance Measures as a tool for self-evaluation and setting their own targets for improvement. The National Priorities aspire to ensure that every young person fulfils their potential at school ( see below). Assessment has a crucial part to play in realising this vision because it can give learners the feedback they need to improve their performance. This is especially true for learners who may otherwise struggle to achieve their potential.

The National Debate which began in 2002 involved both education professionals and the wider community, including parents and young people, in giving their views about the future of education in Scotland. Many of those who took part said they would like to see communication and partnership between schools and parents improved. They felt that schools should celebrate young people's success. They suggested that young people's informal as well as more formal achievements should be recognised, and that assessment should include feedback to pupils to improve the quality of learning and teaching, not just about passing exams and tests. Educating for Excellence outlines a programme of steps to be taken to respond to these views over the next few years.

Issues for consultation

This consultation is concerned therefore with assessment issues in the Partnership Agreement that may require the kinds of changes outlined in Educating for Excellence but not already planned in the AifL programme. The main issues to be discussed are listed on the below.

Issues for this consultation:

  • replacing reports with Annual Progress Plans ( Section A)
  • providing more time for learning by simplifying and reducing assessment, ending the current system of national tests for 5-14 year olds
  • measuring improvement in overall attainment through a Scottish Survey of Achievement rather than relying on the national tests ( Section C)

National Priorities in Education

  • Achievement and Attainment: to raise standards of educational attainment for all in schools, especially in the core skills of literacy and numeracy, and to achieve better levels in national measures of achievement including examination results;
  • Framework for Learning: to support and develop the skills of teachers, the self discipline of pupils and to enhance school environments so that they are conducive to teaching and learning;
  • Inclusion and Equality: to promote equality and help every pupil benefit from education, with particular regard paid to pupils with disabilities and special educational needs, and to Gaelic and other lesser used languages;
  • Values and Citizenship: to work with parents to teach pupils respect for themselves and for one another and their interdependence with other members of their neighbourhood and society and to teach them the duties and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society;
  • Learning for Life: to equip pupils with the foundation skills, attitudes and expectations necessary to prosper in a changing society and to encourage creativity and ambition.

PART 2: RATIONALE

The changes proposed in this consultation paper take account of the experience of the past few years. They represent further steps in ensuring that good learning and young people's needs are at the heart of education and that assessment fully supports learning.

1. Key issues emerging from the Assessment is for Learning programme

Over the first year of the programme, several key issues have emerged about the way professionals in education think about assessment. Research and guidance about educational assessment often refer to the purposes of assessment. Two purposes in particular, 'assessment for learning' and 'assessment for measurement', are seen as being in conflict with one another, and one of the main aims of the Assessment is for Learning programme is to find ways of bringing these two purposes together into a single integrated system.

In addressing this challenge, it is important to recognise that all approaches to assessment have social and professional consequences for teachers, pupils and parents, depending on the uses to which assessment information is put. Some common uses of assessment information are:

Monitoring

  • monitor national standards and trends in attainment
  • monitor the quality of educational provision

Summative assessment

  • select and certificate individuals for particular courses or jobs
  • guide students' choices and routes through school

Diagnostic assessment

  • identify students' difficulties

Formative assessment

  • identify what needs to be done to improve a student's learning, and who will take action

Classroom teachers are likely to adjust their practice if assessment information is used mainly for monitoring standards and provision. Where assessment has an emphasis on quality control and accountability and for selecting and certificating individuals, teachers will want to be sure that they and their pupils perform as well as possible on whatever measures are chosen to represent attainment.

In our present assessment system in Scotland, the emphasis tends to be on the use of assessment information for monitoring and selection purposes. The social and professional consequence is that teachers pay a lot of attention to a few 'key' aspects of learning measured in national and standardised tests and exams, and can sometimes be driven to pay less attention to other less easily measured aspects, and to diagnostic and formative uses of assessment information (including what needs to be done next to improve learning). Pupils and their parents can play little active part in the assessment process.

This needs to change. We know from research that formative assessment - assessment that involves pupils in thinking about their learning - is the most effective approach to raising (rather than simply measuring) attainment, especially for those who are experiencing difficulties in learning. We also know from previous consultation that Scottish teachers recognise that formative assessment can be a powerful tool for improving learning. The Assessment is for Learning programme, and the undertakings in A Partnership for a Better Scotland, therefore aim to improve standards, to shift the balance in emphasis so that more attention is paid to diagnostic and formative uses of assessment information, and to involve pupils and parents in discussion about 'next steps' in the learning process. To do this, we need to make sure that the 'drivers' in the assessment system promote and support formative assessment in classrooms and do not present teachers with conflicting messages about their priorities.

A truly integrated assessment system will allow teachers to practise formative assessment, pupils and parents to be more involved in learning, schools and authorities to monitor provision, and Ministers to monitor national education policy. In that way, each can fulfil its proper function without negative consequences for the others.

2. Partnership Agreement: Replacing reports with Annual Progress Plans

Everyone can agree that the active involvement of parents in a real partnership with their child's school is an essential part of support for learning, and that parents need to have good quality information from teachers if they are to talk with them about their child's learning and progress. Annual Progress Plans would support such partnership and follow on from work currently being done to develop Personal Learning Plans (PLPs).

One of the main features of a PLP that distinguishes it from a straightforward record of progress and achievement, is that it looks forward as well as back, not only summarising what a pupil has done in the past, but also identifying the steps that need to be taken if s/he is to make further progress in the future (a key aspect of formative assessment). The PLP should serve as an agenda for discussion amongst all those concerned in a child's learning, including pupils and their parents, to make sure that everyone agrees about what needs to be done next, and who needs to do it.

The present end-of-year report usually serves as a summary of progress, but rarely provides any information for parents or the next teacher or school about future needs and possible action to address them. An Annual Progress Plan would be designed to fulfil this function, also looking back and looking forward as the PLP does, and pulling together the information built up in the PLP during the year. Feedback from schools and parents about PLPs could thus provide a basis for the development of Annual Progress Plans to replace current reporting arrangements.

The Personal Learning Plan is designed for pupils and parents, as a basis for discussion and planning of learning with teachers during the school year. The Annual Progress Plan will provide a way of summarising the year's activities and making sure that pupils' and parents' views and ideas about the next year's learning, as well as teachers' views, are passed on to the next teacher or school.

3. Partnership Agreement: Providing more time for learning by simplifying and reducing assessment, ending the current system of national tests for 5-14 year olds

The current system of national testing has been in place since 1992. Local authorities at that time agreed to operate the national testing system in line with Circular 12/92. The arrangements set out in that Circular were that teachers would choose tests in reading, writing and mathematics from a catalogue of test units at 5-14 Levels A-E (and later F), when they judged pupils had achieved a Level and were ready to move on to the next. Tests would be used to confirm teachers' professional judgements rather than as a means of determining a Level on their own. While the tests provide a national reference point, they can only lightly sample the curriculum and a single test should not be taken on its own as an accurate measure of performance. The tests are designed to be used along with other evidence to confirm performance at a level.

Feedback from teachers indicates that an unintended consequence of setting targets for attainment was that teachers sometimes felt compelled to disregard the guidance on 'testing when ready' and adopt approaches to testing that are not helpful to pupils' learning and classroom teaching. For example, they have used tests on their own to determine levels of attainment, rather than using them as only one of a number of pieces of assessment evidence to confirm attainment at a level. Teachers have indicated that sometimes they test too frequently, 'practising' for the test, and giving less attention than they themselves feel desirable to aspects of learning that are difficult to assess using written tests. They have 'taught to the test', thus narrowing the range of activities covered in English or mathematics.

Evidence from some teachers is that they feel forced to test all pupils at the same time, using tests as a device to 'sort' pupils, rather than using the 'testing when ready' approach. In such cases, it is likely that some pupils will not be ready to be tested and are therefore likely to fail, which is demotivating for pupils. Feedback and information for parents about their children's attainment has sometimes been very brief, in the form of a single number or letter, which has proved confusing and of little help in showing how well their child is learning or how the parent can help and support the child.

Some local authorities and schools have also purchased commercial 'standardised' tests, whose main purpose is to monitor standards and trends in attainment for large groups of pupils. The tests focus closely on a few aspects of learning as representative of the whole of an area (reading, for example). They are not designed to match taught programmes or particular levels of attainment and are not suitable for diagnostic or formative use with individual pupils. Nevertheless, teachers have indicated that some schools have been using individuals' results to place them in groups, provide particular kinds of support or predict future performance.

In response to the Review of Assessment in Pre-school and 5-14, and concerns expressed in the consultation that followed, the Assessment is for Learning programme has already undertaken some changes to national tests. From the autumn of 2003, teachers will be able to download new National Assessments from a website rather than choosing tests from a catalogue.

The assessments in the electronic National Assessment Bank will be Assessment of Achievement Programme (AAP) materials that have been used and validated in national surveys, and are therefore of assured quality. Assessments at a level will be randomly generated from the Bank at the time of testing, rather than selected by teachers from a catalogue and scrutinised in advance, so that there should be less 'practising' for particular tests than has recently been the case. Because the materials have been used in a survey, teachers will be able to compare the performance of pupils in their own class with the performance of a national sample, helping them to understand national standards better.

However, these developments do not represent any change in the underlying system of assessment, and the electronic materials are still intended to be used by teachers to confirm their judgement that a pupil has achieved one level and is ready to move on to the next. There are several options for further change to replace national tests and these are set out in Section B.

4. Partnership Agreement: Measuring improvement in overall attainment through broad surveys rather than relying on the national tests

Whatever the changes in arrangements for assessment in Scotland, Ministers will continue to require robust means to monitor national attainment so that policy to improve education and the life-chances of all pupils can be properly evaluated. The Executive currently has three main ways of carrying out such monitoring for pupils aged 5-14.

Firstly, HM Inspectors of Education regularly inspect and report on standards in schools and local authorities. The information collected by inspectors is analysed and reported in a number of ways, first in inspection reports, but also in other publications, which pull together inspection information from across several years on different themes and subjects. The Improving….. series, for example, provides information about the quality of learning and teaching in a subject as well as standards of attainment at different stages in primary and secondary schools.

Secondly, since 1998 there has been an annual national survey of 5-14 attainment, whereby schools' reports on the levels attained by each year-group of pupils in P2-S2 are collected and analysed. The data are reported authority by authority. The survey relies on schools' own judgements about levels of attainment, usually confirmed by national tests.

Finally, since 1983 there has also been an annual monitoring sample survey, the Assessment of Achievement Programme. Up until 2001 the survey monitored the performance of a sample of pupils in P4, P7 and S2 in English, mathematics and science on a three-year cycle. A modern languages pilot survey was added alongside English in 2001. In 2002, a complete redesign of the survey was initiated, to increase its effectiveness. Social subjects (enquiry skills) and embedded Core Skills 3 were added to the survey, and the sample extended to P3, P5, P7 and S2, on a four-year cycle. Survey materials are carefully referenced to the 5-14 curriculum, and provided at levels A-F, with sampled pupils at each stage attempting tests and tasks at two or three adjacent levels.

The survey is designed to:

  • provide detailed information about performance in each aspect of the curriculum involved;
  • show how pupils' attainment changes over time;
  • compare performance at different stages and between boys and girls;
  • provide information about the impact of background factors such as school size, school type and class size;
  • (more recently) to provide information on the views of pupils about learning and teaching in the subject in question.

Much of the discussion above has focused on the impact on classroom learning and pupils' experience of various approaches to assessment generally, and national testing in particular. In their responses to consultation in 2000, and in feedback during the first year of Assessment is for Learning, teachers emphasised that they feel themselves and their pupils to be under considerable pressure from the requirements to meet national and local targets and to be accountable for their performance, as judged only by the narrow measure of test results. This may be partly responsible for the inappropriate use of tests and therefore, paradoxically, for making the results used in the survey less than fully reliable. Teachers have also emphasised that they felt that assessment to support learning would be of greater benefit to pupils, but they did not feel able to explore this option fully, because of the pressures described.

The main pressures on schools and teachers seem to arise from the way data are collected and used at various levels in the system. At present, the Executive collects school-by-school attainment data from local authorities and the aggregate data are published nationally, authority by authority. With the introduction of the ScotXed pilot in the autumn of 2003, some authorities will also collect and submit information about the attainment of individual pupils.

An alternative to the central collection of data is to encourage people to make more use of schools' and education authorities' own reports which will cover progress with the National Priorities in Education. The National Priorities in Education cover the Framework for Learning, Inclusion and Equality, Values and Citizenship and Learning for Life ( see above) as well as Achievement and Attainment. The Scottish Executive will also report nationally on the position on all 5 National Priorities, with a baseline report in late 2003 and a follow-up report in 2006.

However, schools' self-evaluation cannot on its own meet all Ministers' requirements for accurate and detailed information about national standards of achievement. An alternative, more rigorous approach to national monitoring is required. Using sample-based surveys to monitor national performance has several distinct advantages. Firstly, sampling allows the use of many different versions of written tests to be used, with a subset of the pupils in the sample attempting each, thus allowing the various aspects of each subject area to be covered quite thoroughly and in some detail, unlike national or standardised tests with their relatively narrow focus.

Sampling also allows the inclusion of practical assessments overseen by field officers, and aspects of a subject not readily assessed in written tests. This would be prohibitively expensive and difficult to manage for all pupils. The involvement of teachers as field officers has proved to be a very useful form of professional development in assessment. In a sampling approach, the results for individual pupils and schools are not reported separately, and individual pupils are not identified by name in the survey database. This will help to reduce some of the inappropriate pressures in the system, shifting the emphasis from individual test results to more rigorous quality assurance of schools' overall assessment judgements. Published reports serve as a useful basis for discussion about learning and teaching in the subject, and as a point of reference and comparison for authorities and schools.

Monitoring surveys are prepared externally and administered 'unseen' to pupils, without preparation and practice, so that all undertake them on the same basis. There can be no effective 'practice' for tests other than undertaking broad and comprehensive programmes of work in the subject, in accordance with published guidelines, so that narrowing of the curriculum and 'teaching to the test' are avoided.

The results of the AAP survey are currently reported at national level only, since the 5% sample is not large enough to permit reliable reporting at local authority level. An expanded sample would allow reporting at authority level, providing managers with accurate information about how their schools as a group are performing across different aspects of the curriculum. It is proposed in this consultation that the redesigned survey, covering an expanded sample of schools and pupils, should take the place of the current AAP from session 2004-2005. The new survey will be called the Scottish Survey of Achievement (SSA).

5. Issues for consultation

The paragraphs above have set out the thinking behind the commitments in A Partnership for a Better Scotland. The sections A-C that follow set out options for consultation, with some advantages and disadvantages for each. You are invited to consider the options and record your views in the spaces provided.

PART 3: OPTIONS FOR CONSULTATION

Section A: Replacing reports with Annual Progress Plans

Option 1: The first option is to develop Annual Progress Plans to a common framework, but with scope for local adaptation

Some advantages

  • A clearly defined framework would allow information to be shared and exchanged amongst teachers, pupils and parents. The flexibility to adapt would allow the Plans to be well tailored and sensitive to the needs of individual pupils and their parents, and to develop from Personal Learning Plans, in the context of local programmes and provision.

Some disadvantages

  • If local variations in Plans came to predominate, it might become difficult for parents who moved house, or other schools in different parts of the country, to use the information the Plan contained in the pupil's best interests.

Option 2: A second option is to produce a single national Annual Progress Plan format that is agreed and used by all schools

Some advantages

  • A single national format would be used by all teachers in all schools. Once it was fully introduced, everyone would know what to expect.

Some disadvantages

  • A national format might not accurately reflect the individual pupil's particular strengths and development needs in the local context.
  • It would be more difficult to ensure that a national format adequately built on locally developed Personal Learning Plans.

Annual Progress Plans: your views

Option 1: develop Annual Progress Plans to a common framework, but with scope for local adaptation

Yes box

No box

Option 2: produce a single national Annual Progress Plan format that is agreed and used by all schools.

Yes box

No box

Other options/comments:

Section B: Replacing the current provision of National Tests with a National Assessment Bank

Option 1: End the central provision of materials for national testing

The first option is to end the central provision of materials for national testing and leave assessment of pupils' progress and achievement entirely to schools. In this case schools and authorities would need to be responsible for planning, designing and carrying out assessment and for quality assurance and local moderation of their assessment judgements. The new electronic assessment bank would be used only as part of the management of the Scottish Survey of Achievement. The work done already on gathering and interpreting evidence and local moderation could inform the development of local arrangements to quality assure and moderate teachers' assessments ( see above).

Some advantages

  • This option would rely on teachers' professional judgements and ensure that assessment could be properly matched to pupils' and parents' needs and to local curriculum and programmes.
  • Discussion of local examples and moderation procedures are an alternative way of quality assuring assessment judgements and a good means of improving teachers' understanding of standards and the accuracy of their judgements.

Some disadvantages

  • With this option, teachers and authorities would not have access to national assessment materials as a point of reference for quality assuring and 'benchmarking' their own judgements.
  • Understanding of standards might therefore vary considerably amongst schools and authorities, potentially undermining teachers' confidence in one another's judgements.
  • Authorities might choose to introduce alternative local forms of testing that would carry the same pressures of accountability as current national tests, and have the same negative impact on classroom practice in assessment as before.
  • Some authorities and schools are using commercially produced 'standardised' tests. If there was no national resource, inappropriate uses of standardised tests might become more widespread.

Option 2: Use the National Assessment Bank to deliver new National Assessments to schools, for use in the same way as before to confirm teachers' judgements

A second option would be to introduce the electronic assessment bank as planned, and for teachers and schools to use the new materials to test pupils in reading, writing and mathematics when they judge that pupils have achieved a level and are ready to move on, as before. This option would be most effective if schools and authorities also introduced local moderation arrangements as an additional part of the quality assurance of assessments. Local moderation is a good way of checking judgements for those aspects of learning not readily assessed in paper and pencil tests (for example, practical and investigation skills). This 'combined' approach would also help parents to understand if their child was learning and progressing appropriately for their age.

With this option, it would also be possible gradually to extend the range of materials in the bank to cover science, social subjects and modern languages, and practical assessments and Core Skills, as the AAP survey cycle permits, as well as reading, writing and mathematics.

Some advantages

  • This option provides a national 'standard' as a reference point, whilst still retaining the advantages of local control.
  • This option puts teachers in full control of the assessment of individual pupils, allowing them to decide when pupils are ready to have their progress assessed summatively in different aspects of the curriculum, and to report helpfully to parents.
  • Because the Bank uses past AAP materials, and would use SSA materials as they became available, it would allow schools and authorities to use national monitoring reports as a direct point of reference and comparison about attainment.
  • Teachers are already familiar with the 'testing when ready' system and it could be easily implemented, with little adjustment other than teachers familiarising themselves with the bank's structure and use.
  • Extending the range of materials in the bank would focus assessment on a wider range of aspects of learning, including those that cannot readily be measured by short paper-and-pencil tests, with the materials exemplifying a variety of approaches to end-of-level assessment, including practical assessments.

Some disadvantages

  • There is no guarantee that pressures on teachers and inappropriate use of the materials would not continue with an electronic system, although an electronic system does allow some monitoring of the number of times a registered user accesses the site.
  • The main disadvantages of extending the range of materials in the bank would be that it might put too much emphasis on assessment of 5-14 levels, and increase the amount of summative assessment expected and practised by teachers, at the expense of learning, teaching and formative approaches. Much would depend on who was deciding when and how often the materials should be used.

Replacing the current provision of National Tests with a National Assessment Bank: your views

Option 1: End the central provision of materials for national testing

Yes box

No box

Other options/comments:

Option 2:

(a) Use the National Assessment Bank to deliver new National Assessments to schools, for use in the same way as before to confirm teachers' judgements

Yes box

No box

(b) In addition, support schools and authorities to introduce local moderation arrangements

Yes box

No box

(c) Extend the range of materials in the assessment bank to include other aspects of the curriculum and Core Skills

Science

Yes box

No box

Social subjects

Yes box

No box

Modern languages

Yes box

No box

Practical assessments

Yes box

No box

Core Skills

Yes box

No box

Other options/comments:

SECTION C: Measuring improvement in overall attainment through A SCOTTISH SURVEY OF ACHIEVEMENT rather than relying on THE ANNUAL 5-14 SURVEY

Option 1: The Executive continues the annual 5-14 survey of attainment as currently, by collecting school-level data from authorities and pupil-level attainment data from all authorities from 2004-2005. The current Assessment of Achievement Programme would continue alongside the annual 5-14 Survey.

The annual 5-14 survey of attainment is currently carried out by collecting school level data from local authorities. It is planned to collect attainment data for all individual pupils through the ScotXed programme from session 2004-2005. (Some authorities are providing pupil-level data this session on a voluntary basis). With this option, the emphasis would be on creating a full and comprehensive Executive database so that attainment data could be linked to other kinds of data. This database would hold pupil level data and would allow national analysis to be done for particular sub-groups of pupils, and of the 'value' added by individual schools. The option does not pre-determine how schools would arrive at attainment judgements. Options for assessment are explored earlier in this document.

National data about provision and attainment across different subjects in the curriculum would continue to be collected separately through the Assessment of Achievement Programme.

Some advantages

  • This approach would provide the Executive, local authorities and headteachers with a powerful tool for analysing and monitoring performance of schools and the attainment of different groups of pupils in a variety of different ways.
  • The flexibility of a national database would allow local authorities and schools to extract information in various ways to present it in their own published documents.

Some disadvantages

  • The data collected under the present arrangements may not be entirely reliable. There is no guarantee that they would be any more reliable in the future, unless schools' assessment priorities and practices changed.
  • In the past, results from the national 5-14 survey and results of AAP surveys have presented two different pictures of attainment, one showing rising standards and one showing a decline in standards. There is no really satisfactory way of explaining the discrepancies or reconciling the differences.
  • The emphasis in this approach might be perceived by schools as more on quality control than quality assurance, with a focus on rank orders and comparisons of levels, marks and grades in a few easily measurable aspects of learning. Other important aspects of pupils' achievement and learning, and their progress during a session, might be neglected.
  • In some cases, it might be possible to identify individual pupils from the data. The attainment of a few pupils might have a disproportionate effect on schools' targets for improvements in attainment.
  • Under Freedom of Information legislation, outside agencies would have a right to access the data and publish rank orders of schools by attainment of levels.

Option 2: Introduce the Scottish Survey of Achievement (SSA) to monitor national attainment, replacing the Annual 5-14 Survey.

This option proposes moving away from the annual 5-14 survey of attainment towards using only sample surveys for national monitoring. The first option is to introduce the 'Scottish Survey of Achievement' (SSA) for monitoring attainment at national level. This new survey would build on the recent improvements to the Assessment of Achievement Programme (AAP). These include:

  • extension to new subjects and Core Skills;
  • the introduction of a 4-year cycle;
  • extended use of field officers, nominated by authorities;
  • an extended subject reference group for each survey, managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland and including classroom practitioners and university and authority representatives;
  • considerably extended questionnaires for schools, teachers and pupils, to gather background data about each subject;
  • links between the national surveys and international studies and HMIE 'Improving…' reports.

The school and pupil sample would be extended to allow reporting by authority, to support their quality assurance activities. The AAP currently covers a sample of pupils at P3, P5, P7 and S2. It might also be possible to extend the survey to cover S4, thus strengthening the survey's potential to report on progression and changes in attainment over the period of compulsory schooling (P3-P7, P5-S2, P7-S4 for each subject survey in the cycle). In addition, if necessary whole groups of pupils with Additional Support Needs could be included in the sample in a particular year, and then again four years later.

With this option, links could be built in between survey data and annual census and ScotXed data for each sampled pupil. This would allow more systematic use of the data gathered by schools and authorities for 'benchmarking' purposes, since particular characteristic groups (for example by socio-economic status, gender, chronological age) could be identified and reported on, allowing added value to be considered. Schools' judgements about levels of attainment in the subject area could also be collected for each sampled pupil at the time of the survey, so that the match between these and the survey results could be reported to each authority, as part of their quality assurance of assessment (but without undue pressure on individual pupils or schools).

Some advantages

  • As noted in the rationale section, broader curriculum coverage would be possible than through the current 5-14 survey.
  • As with the AAP, SSA would be prepared externally and administered 'unseen' to pupils, thus avoiding 'teaching to the test'.
  • As SSA would be administered externally, the bureaucracy to individual teachers and schools would be reduced.
  • SSA, because of the broader curriculum coverage and 'unseen' nature, would provide Ministers with a more robust measure of national attainment.
  • SSA would provide robust and useful data for authorities and schools to use for monitoring and benchmarking without putting pressure on individual schools and pupils.
  • The present arrangements have been in place for two years and are already producing robust monitoring data. For continuity and efficiency, it would be preferable to continue with these arrangements in the new SSA survey until a 4-year cycle has been completed.
  • A four-year gap between subject surveys allows real changes and trends to be picked up. Year-on-year changes are unlikely to be statistically significant.
  • In a four-year cycle, schools can be encouraged to give close attention to programmes and provision for each survey subject in turn, rather than focusing their efforts continuously on English and mathematics and a few tested aspects of these subjects.
  • The inclusion of embedded Core Skills ensures that key aspects of learning are included every year, but in different curriculum contexts.
  • Good links can readily be made with HMIE subject reports and international monitoring, providing a comprehensive picture of Scottish attainment in different aspects of the curriculum in turn.

Some disadvantages

  • The survey covers each subject area, and in particular English language and mathematics, only every four years, although the introduction of embedded Core Skills means that these are covered in different contexts every year.
  • It is possible that SSA may lead to a narrowing of the curriculum in the same way that national tests appear to have done. However, this is less likely than for national tests because of the sample approach, broader curricular coverage and 'unseen' nature.

Option 3: Introduce SSA as in Option 2, but change the subject cycle to include English and mathematics, or other subject areas, more often.

Option 3 is also to introduce SSA as in Option 2, but change the subject cycle. It would be possible to include English and mathematics more often; to extend the survey to include new subjects on the same 4-year cycle, by 'pairing' subjects in the same year; to survey only English and mathematics every year, abandoning other aspects; to survey either English or mathematics and one other subject each year; and to continue to include Core Skills or not in each survey.

Some advantages

  • All of the advantages given under option 2 would be retained.
  • In addition, this option would allow considerable emphasis on English and mathematics, consistent with National Priorities on literacy and numeracy.

Some disadvantages

  • This kind of focus on literacy and numeracy might reduce attention to other important aspects of the curriculum, and discourage teachers from promoting the development of important cross-curricular and 'softer' skills in subject contexts.
  • With this kind of focus on English and mathematics, teachers may neglect assessment and reporting to parents on other important aspects of learning, and undervalue pupils' achievements in these aspects.
  • Significant changes and trends in attainment are not easily discerned year-on-year. Annual focus on the same subjects could be considered uneconomical and unnecessary for effective national monitoring.

National monitoring of attainment: your views

Option 1: The Executive continues the annual 5-14 survey of attainment as currently, by collecting school-level data from authorities and pupil-level attainment data from all authorities from 2004-2005. The current Assessment of Achievement Programme would continue alongside the annual 5-14 Survey.

Yes box

No box

Other options/comments:

Option 2: Introduce the Scottish Survey of Achievement (SSA) to monitor national attainment, replacing the Annual 5-14 Survey.

Yes box

No box

    (b) Extend the survey sample to include S4

    Yes box

    No box

    (c) Build in links between survey data and annual census data/ScotXed data for each sampled pupil

    Yes box

    No box

    (d) Build in links between survey data and schools' attainment data for each sampled pupil

    Yes box

    No box

    (e) Extend the sample each year to include whole small groups of pupils with special characteristics, so their progress can be monitored and compared with that of the wider population

    Yes box

    No box

    Other options/comments:

    Option 3: Introduce SSA as in Option 2, but change the subject cycle to include English and mathematics, or other subject areas, more often.

    1. Include new subjects by 'pairing' on the current 4-year cycle (state which subjects in the comments box below)

    Yes box

    No box

    (b) Survey only English and mathematics every year

    Yes box

    No box

    (c) Survey English or mathematics, and one other subject, each year

    Yes box

    No box

    (d) Continue to include embedded Core Skills in each survey

    Yes box

    No box

    Other options/comments:

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    Acknowledgements

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