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Why on-line assessment, diagnostics and e-learning resources are important

On-line assessment, diagnostics and e-learning resources (for English and maths) – why these are important and how will they benefit teachers and learners?

Almost all students who leave school without A*-C GCSE in maths and English and enter college or an apprenticeship will be asked to do an Initial and Diagnostic Assessment (IAD) in maths and English. The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) like to see it as part of the funding checks for learners, and prime SFA contract holders expect their sub-contractors (often smaller training providers) to carry out a diagnostic assessment. In teaching and learning, this is then used to develop an individual learning plan (ILP) for that student identifying what they specifically need to cover to be successful.
Learning can be delivered by a range of techniques – on-line learning based on the diagnostic output where learners are delivered resources to cover the skills they need to improve is popular. By combining several learners’ ILPs it is possible for the teacher to identify which skills are the weakest and to provide the relevant support by focussing on these areas.

Why is IAD so important? The typical process for year 11 students at school is GCSE revision (often focused on C/D borderline grades) from around January to exams in May/June. Learners then go nowhere near maths or English until they start at College or start with a Training Provider in the following September, so it will be a long time since maths and English skills were part of that learner’s life. IAD gives the providers a fresh starting point and, because the students will often be taking Functional Skills rather than GCSEs, it also means the diagnostic is specific to that qualification.

At the top level, for providers and teachers, they get a comprehensive picture of each learner’s strengths and weaknesses – using just GCSE grades is too broad a brush and cannot give specific details about the skills of individual learners.

Jonathan Wells is director of ForSkills, which provides diagnostics and e-learning resources for English, maths and ICT Functional Skills

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