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O’Dowd signals decision to change assessment arrangements

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has signalled that he will make changes to the End of Key Stage Assessment arrangements in response to feedback from the teaching profession.

The Minister announced today that he would be making changes to the arrangements for the 2013/14 academic year and that his officials would be engaging with unions on the details in the coming days with a view to making an announcement in the coming weeks.

The Levels of Progression, introduced for Communication and Using Mathematics last year, focus on skills as well as knowledge and replaced the previous ‘levels of attainment’, which predated the curriculum.

Mr O’Dowd said: “The Levels of Progression are a key step in my drive to raise educational standards. They set out the skills that we should expect pupils to be able to demonstrate if they are to succeed in life and the world of work. The Levels were developed by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) with the involvement of the teaching profession.

“In advance of the introduction of the new assessment arrangements, I accepted advice from CCEA on their operation. I did so on the basis that they would be reviewed after their first year of operation. I firmly believe that teachers, who are at the chalk face, delivering the curriculum, should have an opportunity to provide feedback on their operation and on potential changes.

“I also made clear that the first years of implementation would be a period in which CCEA, the Department, teachers and their representatives would work together to develop a robust and manageable set of arrangements.

“Over the past months I have listened to the feedback of schools, teachers and unions gathered as part of the planned consultation. I have also taken note of the findings of a review conducted by the General Teaching Council NI into the assessments. As a result, I have decided to move to new arrangements that I believe will reduce the pressure on teachers and schools whilst maintaining the primary purpose of the Levels of Progression – to assist teaching and learning.

“I have asked my officials to meet with representatives of the teaching unions over the coming days to discuss how the arrangements will change for 2013/14 and beyond.”

The Minister also pointed to the forthcoming OECD report, due later in the autumn, which will deal explicitly with the assessment regime here and highlighted that this will provide valuable input to consideration of how our assessment system evolves and remains fit for purpose.

In conclusion, Mr O’Dowd said: “In all the feedback on this issue, it is quite clear that the top priority for everyone concerned is the educational interests of pupils. It is also clear that teachers are overwhelmingly demanding an assessment regime that is robust yet manageable. I believe we are moving towards agreement on a set of arrangements that will help us reach that goal and, following discussion with teaching unions, I plan to announce the details in the coming weeks.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/education-works for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thedeptofeducation

2. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection at http://www.flickr.com/niexecutive

Belfast Telegraph