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Dr. Ken Boston of the QCA Speaks to Launch of IEA

Speaking at the launch of the Institute of Educational Assessors (IEA), Dr. Ken Boston of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) suggested that national curriculum tests at key stages two and three levels could be marked by teachers, not external examiners as is currently the case.

His speech, which spoke of the need for continued dynamism in the field of assessment, is likely to likely to raise a few eyebrows in Whitehall, especially considering the strength of feelings attached to the notions of “testing” and “league tables”. As if realising the impact his words would have he said: “Assessment is also a vexed and contested area, professionally and politically.”

Recognising Professionalism

Dr. Boston emphasised the need to “recognise professionalism” and to “raise trust in the professional judgements of teachers “¦ in both examination and tests”. He rejected the idea that teaching assessment would mean that teachers could set their own tests, deciding on that basis the level at which the learner is. While this is common practice throughout education as a whole, it offers no common standard by which progress and achievement can be measured on a national level.

This, as Dr Boston was quick to point out, is not “a sign of any lack of faith in the professionalism of teacher”; rather it was an acceptance of the impossibility of setting a benchmark nationally by which assessors and those subject to assessment can be measured. However, he did believe that under certain circumstances the QCA could play an important role in advising the Government on behalf of the assessment community.

The Conditions

“If,” said Dr. Boston, “teacher assessment meant that teachers in primary schools and in the early years of secondary education had access to a national bank of standard-referenced tests and examinations which had been trialled and piloted by test developers and awarding bodies under QCA regulation; that the tests and examinations were administered within a specific window of time; that the papers were marked using a mark scheme on which teachers had been trained; that their marks were externally and independently audited by chartered assessors belonging to the Institute of Educational Assessors; and that the system for doing so was demonstrably as rigorous and robust as the current system in maintaining standards nationally and producing valid and reliable data on national performance – then it might well be a better process than the current one, and something which the QCA could recommend to Government.”

Currently, pupils across England sit the same exam papers at the same time on the same day, which are then collected and marked by external assessors working on behalf of the examinations board. Children across England sat their key stage two tests last week, while those taking the key stage three tests sat theirs a fortnight ago.

Michael de la Fuente

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