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Written Statement - Assessment for Learning

Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education

It is our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap, and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence.

A recurring theme on my visits around schools has been accountability and assessment. I have listened carefully to these concerns.

Assessment and accountability are critical to raising standards. Assessment’s prime purpose must be to provide information that can guide decisions about how best to progress pupils’ learning and to report to their parents.

By doing so, assessment should improve learners’ learning, teachers’ teaching and parents’ understanding. It should be used in the best interest of pupils; enabling teachers to adjust teaching strategies to support their progress.

However, currently teacher assessments also form part of our accountability system and the lines between the 2 have too often been blurred, leading to unintended consequences in the classroom.

I have listened to the criticism, studied the international evidence and taken note of Successful Futures which also points to the blurred lines between assessment and accountability.

We are currently embarked on transformational education reform in Wales. Ensuring that we have a rigorous accountability system in place to raise standards is essential.

This includes making sure we spot the warning signs and intervene early when schools start to fail, learning from what works and putting in place effective interventions to support these schools.

This is why we are undertaking a fundamental review of accountability systems at both pre- and post-16, working with schools and colleges and with experts.

I have already announced an independent review on the future role of Estyn starting this August which will report in early 2018. 

We will also be looking at our performance measures. I am concerned that our focus on raising GCSE attainment to C grade has led to early entry for an increasing number of children to bank a lower qualification instead of potentially reaching higher grades.

I also recently consulted on more rigorous performance measures for post-16 learning.

In considering all of this, I would like to inform Assembly Members that I intend to consult on ceasing the publication of teacher assessment and National Reading and Numeracy data below the national level from 2018 onwards. Using data from assessments designed to support the individual progress of children should have no place in a high stakes accountability system.

The proposal for consultation would mean that the 2017 teacher assessment results would be the last set of data routinely published for schools and local authorities by the Welsh Government in the School Comparative Reports, All Wales Core Data Sets and My Local School. We would continue publishing information on families of schools, contextual information and absence data for schools, WJEC LA exam reports and results for Key Stage 4 and above.

We would still collect all the data nationally to ensure that it is available for important research into the effectiveness of our education policies, and so that we can continue to monitor progress at a national level and for specific groups of learners. The Chief Statistician will review separately the published official statistics that include data at subnational level.

This autumn I will consult on the implications of introducing these changes.