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Dr Jo-Anne Baird from the Graduate School responds to the Expert Group’s Report

7 May 2009

Dr Jo-Anne Baird from the University of Bristol’s Graduate School of Education was appointed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to advise the Expert Group on future assessment and accountability systems for primary and secondary schools. Their report was released today and here she gives her reaction to its recommendations.

We now have a generation of teachers who have worked in a system where testing was the responsibility of the government.

Dr Jo-Anne Baird
Teacher Assessment

The Expert Group have made a number of recommendations that will increase the level of teacher assessment. 

  • Assessment for Learning should be promoted, including the use of ‘Assessing Pupil Progress’
  • Key Stage 2 Science should be teacher-assessed
  • Instead of Key Stage 3 national testing, tests will be made available to teachers for their own use

Whilst welcoming this move towards teacher assessment, Jo-Anne Baird supported the Expert Group’s recommendations for more professional development of teachers in this area, saying:

“We now have a generation of teachers who have worked in a system where testing was the responsibility of the government.  Knowing what your students have learned is essential to good teaching, so it is important that teachers are given the right professional development to produce assessments that measure pupils’ learning and indicate to the teachers what they need to teach next.  Weak assessments would give teachers the wrong impressions altogether about what students know.”

The Expert Group have advised that ‘Assessing Pupil Progress’ (APP) materials should form part of the strategy.  Jo-Anne Baird warns that the existing materials need further work to avoid them becoming a bureaucratic burden upon teachers.  The APP materials currently require far too many judgments to be made about individual pupils for them to be integrated into classroom practices in a way that is helpful to teaching and learning.

For reasons of equality of opportunity, our education system prioritises exposure of pupils to the curriculum over ensuring that they have mastered the basics.

Dr Jo-Anne Baird
Development of basic skills

‘Primary Graduation Certificates’ (PGCs), to be issued at the end of primary schooling were recommended by the Expert Group, along with measures to improve the transition to secondary school of those with below-average performance for their age.  Jo-Anne Baird welcomed these proposals, but indicated that they might need to go further, saying that:

“For reasons of equality of opportunity, our education system prioritises exposure of pupils to the curriculum over ensuring that they have mastered the basics.  If pupils have not learned to read, write and count, we move them on to the next phase with their year group.  That means that some people leave school without the literacy and numeracy skills required for life.  We really need to question how we deal with this in schools.”

Key Stage 3

Continuing to pilot the Single Level Tests, rather than rushing to implement them was also welcomed, as was the reduction in testing by sampling at Key Stage 3 rather than assessing all pupils.  Both initiatives require considerable development work if they are to meet their aims.

Links

Download the Report of the Expert Group on Assessment

Read Dr Jo-Anne Baird’s webpage

Read about the Graduate School’s Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies (CALS)

Notes to editors

Dr Jo-Anne Baird is a Reader in Educational Assessment and the Director of the Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies at the Graduate School of Education.  Before joining the University of Bristol, she was Head of Research at the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), where she managed the research programme and the standard-setting of AQA’s examinations.

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