Concepts of ‘assessment’ in England
In England, ‘pupil assessment’ can be understood in three ways, two general and the third specific to pupils with special educational needs. The two general applications are:
- assessment for learning: this is by far the most important application as it informs or helps to form all classroom practice; very broadly, it can be understood as a mature form of formative assessment. It plays a significant part in school improvement and the raising of standards of pupil achievement. All assessment for learning is non-statutory, and is under the direct control of the individual school.
- summative assessment: this is linked to assessment for learning insofar as it provides evidence that strategies within assessment for learning have been successful and have led to desired improvements in pupil attainment. Optional summative assessment materials are available to schools to help teachers to judge the levels at which their pupils are working (the ‘Teacher Assessment levels’), but schools are also required to administer statutory tests at specific points in each pupil’s educational career.
The third, specific, application is the following:
- the assessment of special educational needs: this covers all methodologies for identifying and assessing a pupil’s special educational needs, and the implementation of strategies to address those needs. It has two sub-strands: non-statutory and statutory assessment.
All pupils with special educational needs are included, alongside their peers, in the two general applications. Thus assessment policy and practice for these pupils cannot be separated from general practice for all pupils. It is an extension of this policy and practice rather than something qualitatively different. However, studies have shown that specific techniques may be important in ‘good practice’ (see below).
The statutory primary phase of education covers the age range 5–11+, although many children now start school at the age of 4. The primary phase of education covers key stages 1 (age 5-7+) and 2 (7+-11+). In some parts of the country, there is a tripartite system of education whereby children leave their first school at the age of 7+, 8+ or 9+ to go to a middle school (until 12+ or 13+) and then continue to a secondary school (sometimes called ‘high school’) until the end of statutory education (aged 16).
- DfES, (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/sen/senstrategy/