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Reframing the way we think about assessment – during Covid and for the future

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Female teacher with her pupils in classroomSince the Covid outbreak, learning and teaching has changed in Wales. A combination of remote learning and face-to-face learning has been a reality for the majority of learners and practitioners in recent times.

Learning and teaching will continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic during the 2020/21 school year. The approaches taken by schools and settings will continue to evolve to provide learning both in school and elsewhere – if the need arises. The balance between learning in schools and settings and time spent learning elsewhere may well change at particular points in response to the pandemic.

As schools and settings have been increasing their operations this summer term, practitioners have been using contact time to ’check in’ and ‘catch up’ with learners, to support their well-being and help them re-engage in their learning.

This focus on supporting the individual needs of learners fits well with the changes for assessment that are underway as part of the new curriculum. So the current situation brings an opportunity to re-visit assessment, re-framing our thinking and moving towards the new arrangements, where the emphasis is on supporting each individual learner to make progress.

Learner well-being is the first and foremost priority for schools and settings during this period. As a fundamental part of the learning process, assessment has a key part to play in this, supporting learners as they continue to engage with learning in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts.

During these times, and when learners return to schools and settings in September, assessment should not be about ‘testing’ learners in an attempt to catch up and cover everything they would have done before the Covid outbreak. Assessment should contribute to developing a holistic picture of the learner – their strengths, the ways in which they learn, their areas for development and any additional support or challenge required – in order to support each individual and inform next steps in learning. Feedback provided should focus on supporting the learner to move forward by reassuring them, acknowledging effort and achievement, and helping them to identify their next steps. Communication between the practitioner and the learner, as well as the parent/carer, is key. It will help bridge learning in the classroom and real-world learning, whilst supporting learners to take more ownership of their learning.

Dialogue between the practitioner and the learner is essential to developing individual learners’ understanding of the way they learn, thus enabling them to make progress in their learning. When planning their curriculum, schools and settings will adapt and develop their approaches to ensure that assessment forms a fundamental part of supporting learners.

Another factor supporting the changes to assessment is the current disapplication of statutory areas of learning and programmes of study, and the end of foundation phase and key stage assessments; changes that we have made to provide schools with the space and flexibility that they need to deliver a new approach to learning and teaching.  During this summer term, Welsh Government has not expected these assessments to be undertaken nor data about outcomes and levels to be gathered. Assessment has focused on supporting each individual learner to make progress in their learning.

We will consider the need for further changes to statutory requirements over the summer and confirm the situation regarding any statutory assessment during the next academic year before the start of the autumn term, with the needs and interests of learners during these unprecedented times at the heart of the decisions taken. Indeed, Welsh Government is considering longer term options, for example removing or modifying moderation requirements to provide greater space and flexibility for schools as they begin to move towards the new arrangements under Curriculum for Wales.  This flexibility would not only allow schools to focus on supporting each of their learners to progress, but also to develop their understanding of progression, using information gained from assessment to reflect on and further refine their approaches.

To help practitioners share their experiences, we are publishing case studies outlining different approaches to assessment and other related areas. The first few focus on communicating and engaging with parents/carers and putting the learner at the heart of assessment. We will update this page regularly, and more supporting materials will be made available in the autumn term.

The Assessment Team, Welsh Government

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