Policy Development Workshop – Balancing Assessment and Accountability

10/07/2014On 8 July AQA held the first policy development workshop of our major project The future of assessment: 2025 and beyond. The theme of this event was ‘balancing assessment and accountability’.

This theme was intended to provoke discussion about the purpose of assessment, how it is currently used and how it might instead be used in the future. Additionally, we wanted delegates to consider accountability in England, and what would be the ideal system if we were free from any current constraints.

Tom Sherrington, Headteacher at King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, was the first speaker. He talked about the difficulty in comparing similar grades across different subjects, and advocated a move to a baccalaureate model to give an equal standing to different types of qualification.

Next, Laura Dougan and Margaret Miller from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) spoke and explained the learner-centric assessment system in Scotland. They discussed some of the recent changes to assessment in Scotland, including the greater involvement of teachers and the increasing amount of internal assessment, as well as the new Insight online benchmarking tool which will be used by schools to identify areas for improvement.

Invited guests from across the education sector then discussed potential policy objectives in small groups, joined by our speakers. Each group debated the points raised by the speakers as well as contributing their own hopes and expectations for the next 10-15 years in assessment and school accountability.

Seminar One

Most of the groups spoke about a ‘triangle’ of validity, reliability and accountability, and the struggle of balancing all three of these. Some key desires which emerged were for Ofsted to be more collaborative with schools and teachers and not to focus so much on data; for assessment to follow curriculum design and not the other way around; and to see a separation of assessment and accountability.

Our main aim was to reach a consensus on the three most important issues relating to the balance of assessment and accountability in schools, and the three points below were all discussed at length by everyone at the event.

The groups all agreed that they would like teachers to be more involved in assessing, with some delegates suggesting there should be greater professionalisation of teachers as assessors, similar to other countries such as Germany. This is linked to a desire for more trust in teachers to be able to effectively teach and assess their students.

One theme which emerged was the hope that accountability would move away from being based on exam results, with some agreeing with Tom’s idea of a baccalaureate style qualification, and others thinking that expanding accountability to include destination would be a more appropriate measure.

The groups also decided accountability should be about improving and progress, with one group suggesting schools should be held accountable to their own set of broad aims, which could include assessment but crucially other measures as well.

The event was the first of a series of three events to be held over the summer and autumn. The next two events are on the themes of Assessment in Other Sectors, and 21st Century Assessment. If you wish to attend either of these events and contribute to the project, further details can be found on this blog post.

Our thanks go to the speakers and guests who attended.