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2012 Assessment Arrangements

Dear School Representative

The following has been sent to all 108 MLAs and forms part of our efforts to address the serious issues arising from the on-going changes to the assessment arrangements.

Yours sincerely

Gerry Murphy

Northern Secretary


2012 Assessment Arrangements

Statutory Assessment of Cross Curricular Skills

Unions have consistently questioned the validity of the Statutory Assessment process for Cross Curricular Skills at the end of key stages 1-3. However these concerns are secondary to the grave concerns about how the new arrangements are being delivered.

The new assessment arrangements have been brought forward in a way that has caused unnecessary disruption and anxiety to teachers and schools. CCEA are fully aware from their own feedback processes that the arrangements are unworkable and burdensome. This workload has been further increased due to the lack of clarity about the format, quantity and diversity of the process.  

  • Schools plan for assessment in an annual cycle usually from May to May. A CCEA letter to schools containing a minimal outline of the process only arrived in June.
  • CCEA have failed to inform schools in a timely fashion of the expectations. They have left them with insufficient time to incorporate the process into the work of the systems and practice of the schools. 
  • A teacher of 30 pupils will be expected to devise with colleagues at least 5 different assessment tasks including assessment activities, questions, writing and marking frames. CCEA has failed to provide schools with samples or appropriate guidance in this task. Schools will need to ‘pilot’ these tasks to see if they allow the pupils the best opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
  • Pupils in primary classes conduct their work in copy books and usually in pencil. This makes compiling portfolios an additional burden.
  • The class teacher will have to administer at least 7 different such assessment tasks. In reality many classes will require a wider range of tasks to cope with the higher and lower achieving pupils.
  • The class teacher will then have to mark at least 210 of these tasks to compile into a portfolio. (No sample of a portfolio has been provided. The skill of talking and listening appears to have been abandoned).
  • They will have to include on each piece some background information including the amount of help, support or structure that was provided to the pupil and why the piece of work has been awarded the level it has.
  • They will then have to work with colleagues to moderate these pieces within the school. This process may then require further refinement or information from the teacher.
  • They then have to make them available to the external moderation system. This in turn may also require further refinement or information.
  • There has not been enough engagement with parents to explain that pupils may achieve lower targets due to the new measurement system.

The most significant aspect of these changes is the fact that these changes place an unreasonable workload on teachers. It encroaches significantly into the teaching and learning time of the pupils and teachers. We are concerned that the standards in education will be negatively affected this year as teachers are distracted by this unreasonable and unworkable process. The arrangements are clearly not fit for purpose. In a year when the confidence in the assessment process at GCSE level has been so undermined it would be foolhardy to further undermine public confidence in the wider assessment process.

Computer Based Assessment

Teachers do not have appropriate/sufficient I.T. to complete the assessment. The training and implementation phases overlap too closely. The process is flawed with the pupils being awarded scores that do not reflect their ability.  The scores are not reliable due to the issues with connectivity etc. 

  • There has been a vacuum of communication with teachers about the CBA.
  • The training for the CBA has only taken place in September.
  • Teachers are expected to administer the test in October.
  • They then have to share the findings with parents before the test is standardised.
  • They then have an additional expectation to discuss the standardised results when they are compiled in January.
  • The test is‘diagnostic’ but fails to give any new information that the teacher would not already have. Schools widely administer PIM and PIE tests in May that summarise pupils’ strengths and areas for development.
  • The results are presented according to ‘curriculum year’. This is a unit of measure that schools have no knowledge of. Our curriculum is divided into levels that reflect approximately 18 months.
  • During the training of teachers schools had issues with the hardware and internet connections.
  • Pupils have had their test sessions disrupted and broken by connection issues.
  • Pupils are required to use an extensive range of IT skills to complete the task – leading some teachers to query if it assesses IT more accurately than the communication and using mathematics as intended.
  • Schools have been told that these pupils will be unfairly penalised and are not allowed to retake the test. (This has implications for the validity of the standardised scores in January).

The confidence of teachers in the CBA has been seriously undermined by the way they have been rolled out. The focus appears to be on accountability rather than on developing a progress that will support the class teacher in identifying the reasons that a pupil may be experiencing difficulties. The process has worked out to be time consuming. Schools do not have the level of IT hardware and internet that CCEA seems to assume. The unreliability will unfairly penalise pupils. Teachers are being taken away from their primary duty of teaching and learning. Schools should not be required to share the outcomes with parents until the assessment has been found fit for purpose.

Date: Tuesday, 2 October 12