Belfast Telegraph

Assessments 'fraught with problems'

New computer-based assessments of primary school pupils between 2012 and 2013 in Northern Ireland were fraught with problems, it was revealed.

Independent experts strongly criticised the tests, finding that they were brought in too quickly and with too little consultation with schools.

The review said: "The implementation of CBA in September 2012, following testing and assurance work earlier, quickly became fraught with problems and calls to help desks. Schools had to handle real difficulties for themselves and students."

The online assessments were introduced in 900 primary schools in September, 2012 but hundreds of primary schools complained about them. T he Department of Education said 180 schools reported problems.

Paul Good from Lisburn Primary Principals Association had described the testing process as "a shambles".

The report said a high proportion of schools were able to conduct the assessments, but over an extended timescale into January 2013, and not from September to the end of term in December 2012, as originally planned.

Reviewers identified 14 key contributing factors/decisions which, if handled differently, would have improved the chances of more successful outcomes.

"The Department needs to engage better with schools and implementers during the policy formulation stage to increase understanding and secure buy-in at the earliest possible stage," the report said.

"Any planned policy changes should be carefully impact-assessed and also associated risks identified and evaluated.

"There is clearly a need to gain more support for the use of CBA and acceptance of the benefits for schools and teachers."

The review team found no clear evidence that the Department or assessment body the CCEA developed a detailed analysis of the potential impacts.

"In addition, we have not seen or heard of evidence that the introduction of CBA was ever conceived and planned as part of a significant cultural change initiative across the education sector, in terms of schools' assessment capabilities.

"In fact, some stakeholders have said that it has been described as not being a high stakes assessment."

The report said there should be an effective mechanism to listen to schools and be seen to be listening.

"A need to build trust and confidence in the solutions has been highlighted by stakeholders, and we agree. There are existing channels, but closer involvement through CBA focus or user groups could be considered."

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