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End of Key Stage Assessment tests face axe after MLA vote


Critics of End of Key Stage Assessments say the tests are 'not fit for purpose'. Picture posed

Critics of End of Key Stage Assessments say the tests are 'not fit for purpose'. Picture posed

Critics of End of Key Stage Assessments say the tests are 'not fit for purpose'. Picture posed

An assessment used to benchmark primary schools is in tatters after the Assembly called for end of Key Stage Assessments to be axed.

Education Minister John O'Dowd was told yesterday that teachers and principals no longer have any confidence in end of Key Stage Assessments, which were described as "not fit for purpose".

The successful DUP motion, supported by all parties except Sinn Fein, called on the minister to stop the process, review other assessment tools used by schools and introduce a system that helps inform teaching and learning.

A defiant Mr O'Dowd told the Assembly that those who believed there would be no moderation were "living in cloud cuckoo land".

When Key Stage Assessments were introduced they were meant to be used by teachers for diagnostic purposes to assess pupil progress, but they have also been used to hold schools to account.

The outcomes of end of Key Stage Assessments have been used by the Department of Education and the education and library boards in viability audits, area planning and annual profiles.

DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey told MLAs: "Over the past 16 years Sinn Fein has held the portfolio of education and during that time assessment has continued to be a shambles."

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The North Antrim MLA also pointed to the flawed Nina (Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment) and Nila (Northern Ireland Literacy Assessment) computer-based assessments, shelved last year after controversy.

Mr Storey added: "We have had change during the period but each initiative whether its Incas, computer-based assessment, levels of progression and even marking of public examinations by CCEA, from time to time the outcome has been the same."

It emerged yesterday that in one board area, primary school principals had called on the minister to abolish the end of Key Stage Assessment "as they were meaningless, too broad and beyond repair".

Mr Storey, the education committee chairman, continued: "When you design and drive a system of change from the top down the major danger is that people don't buy into the change. That's been the problem of assessment and evaluation processes within the Northern Ireland curriculum.

"They look good on paper but teachers have not bought in to the change. Teachers are saying they are broken beyond repair. They have no faith in the tests or the process."

Mr Storey said that what was meant as an assessment for learning tool had became a high stakes test for schools. He added: "So let's halt this current charade which wastes money and adds no real value to the system.

"Begin again with a proper teacher-led review."

The SDLP's Dominic Bradley, who described the end of Key Stage Assessments as "totally unreliable", said the "minister should listen to the voices of principals".

UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson called end of Key Stage Assessments "inconsistent nonsense", while TUV leader Jim Allister stated "it's time to bin them".

But Mr O'Dowd rejected a call for a new testing regime. He said: "The levels of progression allow us to set out the knowledge and skills that we expect a pupil to have acquired at key points in their academic life."

He stated his disappointment that the ongoing industrial action has led to a boycott of the system by some schools.


End of Key Stage Assessments in English, maths and ICT are carried out at the end of P4, P7 and Year 10. Up to P4 is key stage one, up to P7 is key stage two, and up to Year 10 is key stage three. It is a legal requirement for schools to provide the information on a child's performance to parents.

Within the key stages there are various levels of progression for children.

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