Assessment matters - a review of the new Labour Skills Report

Yesterday saw the release of a major study to inform a potential Labour government's education manifesto. 'Learning and skills for economic recovery, social cohesion and a more equal Britain' was produced by the Council of Skills Advisers headed up by former Education Secretary David Blunkett. It sees a more 'creative' curriculum with less focus on exams being a key driver to the changes it is looking for. In many ways the aspiration and direction of travel is one we are seeing across the world right now.

As you would expect a document like this is rich in rhetoric and a lot less so in detail. This is especially so when it comes to matters of assessment. It was good to see for example a recognition of the importance of Oracy skills. As we have discussed in earlier posts however without appropriated and trusted assessment methods skills like Oracy will continue to struggle to get the attention they deserve - we treasure what we measure.

The report's view on Assessment

It is telling how little the report gives over to assessment. Assessment is one the three key pillars underpinning the changes described, the others being curriculum and pedagogy. However, it only receives half a page of attention in a report totaling nearly 100 pages. This should tell us a few things, not least that no one is quite sure how it can be done.

  • What: "Labour should introduce multimodal assessment so that young people’s progress is no longer just measured through written exams, and develop and make full use of destination measures based on existing underused data to help schools and colleges understand the long-term destinations of their students"
  • Why: " This will assist in the process of removing the anachronism of grade boundaries and norm- referencing, which has little to do with the achievement of individual student, and everything to do with a historic belief in proportioning levels of qualifications attained."
  • How: There is no mention in the report on how any of this might be possible.

A job to be done

There is an opportunity here to take a proper look at alternative ways of assessment that must not be missed.

We would of course argue that taking a more holistic approach has to be part of this, and the best way to do this by using comparative rather than absolute judgements.

Our recently released POC of RM Compare on Demand shows one way that this might be tackled.