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Key Stage Assessments 23/6/2014

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I support the motion.  I do so having listened to the passion of Mr Storey, the professionalism of Mr Rogers, the pleading of Mr Kinahan to be listened to and the lack of confidence that Mr Lunn has in the system.

There are a number of important aspects included in the motion that contribute to the overall aspirations of this Assembly for the education of its children.  The motion notes:

"principals and teachers in schools no longer have any confidence in the end of Key Stage Assessments".

It further notes with concern:

"the Department of Education and the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment's approach to end of Key Stage Assessments is not fit for purpose; and calls on the Minister of Education to halt the present process".

On the positive aspect of the motion, it calls for:

"assessment for learning tools that schools currently use and introduce a system of assessment that helps inform teaching and learning."

What are we trying to create in our education system?  I suppose that it can be encapsulated in a number of phrases.  We want highly motivated children with an appetite for learning, which we can encourage through the education system; children who have a desire to achieve at their highest level of ability; approaches to curriculum development and assessment that will have a strong emphasis on high expectations, success and bringing about the best possible achievement for pupils; ensuring holistic partnerships with and between the schools, parents, pupils and the local community to improve, enhance and progress children's knowledge and their skills; the professional leadership of head teachers, with a continuous impact on helping children enjoy their educational experiences and the overall ethos of work within whichever school that they attend; and to prepare the pupil for second-level education, whatever that choice may be. 

The Minister stated in his letter on the subject to schools dated 4 October:

"I am aware that many teachers not only see the associated assessment moderation arrangements as burdensome, they are also not confident that the levels themselves are useful.  I am determined that the focus of the current and coming academic years will be on working with you to build that confidence."

Minister, given your words in that letter, how can it also be that you support the amendment, which recognises the concern?  As has been pointed out, "concern" is a very low level word that does not encapsulate all the feelings of the unions, teachers and principals around this matter, but you recognise the concern of school principals and teachers about some elements of Key Stage assessments.  It is not some elements, Minister; it is more than some elements.

You call on both parties; you call on the Department of Education representatives and teachers' representatives to redouble their efforts and to finalise a system of assessment that helps to inform.  Minister, the responsibility for that is yours.  It is not for the teachers to redouble their efforts; it is for you and your Department to redouble your efforts and progress the matter.

You also recognise that Key Stage data creates pressure on schools and individual teachers and that the pressure creates a negative effect of the use of the levels for the learning of pupils.  You also recognise that the levels have not evolved to meet changing circumstances.

Minister, I do not think that anything else can be said about it.  The process is not working.  As Mr Kinahan, Mr Rogers, Mr Storey and Mr Lunn said — as every side of the House has said — principals and teachers must be listened to.

The teaching profession and the support mechanisms around the teaching profession are crying out for that.  There is a system; there are tools in place that can be used to the benefit of our pupils.

Minister, not just in political interests but in the interests of the pupils parents, society and the economy, accept the motion as it is put forward.

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