“Without Trust, We Cannot Stand”

13/05/2014Leora Cruddas, Director of Policy, ASCL

The ASCL and AQA debate on the future of teacher assessment raised a number of interesting ideas: Fiona Millar’s fascinating thoughts about what an educated 19-year old looks like; Ian Bauckham’s call for chartered assessors in schools; Patsy Kane’s testimony that teacher feedback is one of the most powerful motivators of progress in students’ learning; and Andrew Hall’s call to rebuild trust across all components of the education profession. I’d like to develop Andrew’s important theme.

It is easy – and politically expedient – to say that teachers can’t be trusted. It is an altogether much more politically courageous thing to build trust. We need political leadership of this calibre: leadership that builds strength and capacity and inspires great leadership in others. We are after all, talking about our children’s future and the economic future of the country. What our education system needs and has always needed is great leadership, both political and professional.

Interestingly, the public does trust the teaching profession. A 2013 Ipsos Mori poll showed that 86% of respondents trust teachers, while just 18% trust politicians to tell the truth. At the debate, around 90% of those present said that teachers are at least somewhat effective at formative assessment, while more than half felt that successive governments have been responsible for a breakdown in trust. But, as Charles Handy says, “we cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply at the end of history.” There is a moment for the profession to seize the day and say what we think needs to happen to create a good assessment system.

It is now more than ten years since Onora O’Neill delivered her excellent Reith lectures on A Question of Trust. She said then: “Trust often invites reciprocal trust: and when it does, we have virtuous spirals. Equally trust can open the door to betrayal and betrayal to mistrust: there are vicious spirals.” We want to build virtuous spirals of trust across all components of the education system in order to create the very best education system for our children.

In assessment terms, as Patsy Kane said, this is likely to come from schools collaborating to build professional capital in assessment. There is probably nowhere better to start to build virtuous cycles than in the field of assessment, which is at the centre of teachers’ professional practice.

Finally, as part of the Great Education Debate, and ahead of the election in May 2015, ASCL calls on all political parties to build a culture of trust and confidence in our education system. We must create cross-party agreement on a vision for our education system that enables, motivates and inspires our children to develop as rounded and grounded (to quote the CBI) and take their place in the global society.

Trusted, professional, expert: teacher assessment in 2025

13/05/2014Dale Bassett, Head of Public Policy, AQA

Over the course of the Future of assessment project so far a number of topics have repeatedly arisen in the discussions, events and writing that have contributed to the debate. Teachers’ role in assessment has been one of these, and has also been an important theme in the Great Education Debate convened by the Association of School and College Leaders.

High-quality teacher assessment is essential, not just to improve teaching and learning but also to improve the validity and reliability of summative assessments. Yet concerns over inconsistent quality and the impact of pressures from the school accountability system have led to a decreased role for teacher assessment in qualifications.

On 10th March AQA and ASCL brought together 60 school leaders and teachers with other experts and commentators to consider the issues of trust, teacher professionalism and teacher expertise. The debate, held at Whalley Range High School in Manchester, addressed the questions of restoring trust between teachers and government, enhancing teachers’ skills in assessment, and how better teacher assessment could be a central aspect of the assessment system of the future.

One of the big challenges when discussing teacher assessment – in fact, most topics in education – is that preconceptions and assumptions can often play a bigger role in influencing thinking than facts and evidence. We decided to see what people’s views were before the discussion, and then reassess to see if the debate had changed minds, so we asked the participants a series of multiple-choice questions relating to reliability of marking, trust in teachers and government, formative assessment, and improving the assessment skills of teachers, which they answered using electronic keypads.

The video below shows some highlights of the debate. Four panellists offered thoughts to inform and provoke before the debate: journalist and campaigner Fiona Millar; Ian Bauckham, President of ASCL; Andrew Hall, AQA’s Chief Executive; and Patsy Kane, head of Whalley Range High School. So what were people’s views – and how did the debate change their initial ideas?

Chart 1

Teachers seemed more confident in their ability to reliably assess coursework and controlled assessment before the discussion, in which Fiona Millar and Andrew Hall both addressed the challenges of ensuring reliable teacher assessment in a high-stakes accountability environment. This clearly resonated with the participants, with around 10% deciding after the debate that teachers’ summative assessment was less reliable than they initially thought.

Chart 2

Teachers felt from the outside that good quality CPD was the best way to improve their assessment skills. The debate around becoming an examiner turned some of those who had thought this would be beneficial away from this and towards discrete CPD. Despite some in the room saying that they had learned a lot by being an examiner, Ian Bauckham’s reservations about the benefits clearly held sway with some of the teachers present.

Chart 3

The issue of trust was discussed by some of the panellists, with Andrew Hall saying confidence in the system was reliant on rebuilding trust between governments, teachers, exam boards, and parents. Fiona Millar also indicated trust was an important issue, and that parents tended to trust heads and teachers far more than politicians when it comes to knowing what is best for education.

Patsy Kane said that teachers wanted to understand more about the “black box” of the assessment system, particularly grading, and thought that exam boards should work closely with teachers to help them understand the GCSE and A-level reforms, and a clear majority of those present thought this was the most important way to improve trust in the system. Interestingly, very few teachers thought that stronger regulation was the key to rebuilding trust.

Watch the 12 minute video to see highlights of the event: