OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education

2223-0955 (en ligne)
2223-0947 (imprimé)
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How can assessment and evaluation policies work together more effectively to improve student outcomes in primary and secondary schools? The country reports in this series analyse major issues facing evaluation and assessment policy to identify improvements that can be made to enhance the quality, equity and efficiency of school education.

OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

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  • http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/oecd-reviews-of-evaluation-and-assessment-in-education-northern-ireland-united-kingdom_9789264207707-en
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Claire Shewbridge, Marian Hulshof, Deborah Nusche, Lars Stenius Staehr
16 jan 2014
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9789264207707 (PDF) ;9789264207691(imprimé)

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This book finds that, in many ways, Northern Ireland stands out internationally with its thoughtfully designed evaluation and assessment framework. The major components are well developed, in particular policies for student assessment, school evaluation and school system evaluation. It has been developed using the majority of key design principles recommended by the OECD. The approach to evaluation and assessment combines: central control over policy development and standard setting; transparency over procedures and reporting of results; an increasing responsibility for the implementation of evaluation and assessment among teachers and schools; and central mechanisms to monitor the effectiveness of implementation. For example, while schools and their Boards of Governors are accountable for their educational quality and are accountable to their communities, school development planning processes are also monitored as part of external school evaluation by a central inspectorate. Teachers play a central role in student assessment and their assessment of pupil progress against central standards is moderated by a central agency which engages working teachers in the process. Teachers in primary schools are offered central diagnostic tests to support their assessment of pupil progress. Only teacher appraisal remains entirely school based, but there is a set of common competence standards for teachers.

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  • Foreword

    This report for Northern Ireland forms part of the OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes (see Annex A). The purpose of the Review is to explore how systems of evaluation and assessment can be used to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of school education. The Review looks at pupil assessment, teacher appraisal, school leader appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation, and how these help to improve pupils’ learning.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Compared internationally, pupils in Northern Ireland perform very well in assessments at the primary level, and around average at the post-primary level. However, compared to the OECD average, differences in pupil performance at age 15 are more strongly associated with their schools’ socio-economic intake. Social deprivation varies significantly among local government districts, as shown by the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals. Children follow 12 years of compulsory schooling from age 4 to 16, transferring to post-primary school at age 11. Some 43% of pupils are enrolled in academically selective post-primary schools and these, on average, have a more advantaged socio-economic intake. In some non-selective post-primary schools, there are high concentrations of pupils entitled to free school meals.

  • Schooling in Northern Ireland

    In 1999, policy and legislative responsibility for education was devolved from the United Kingdom government to a local Assembly in Northern Ireland. Nearly all pupils attend a public school, although the funding and management of these varies. Compared internationally, pupils perform well at the primary level and around average at the postprimary level, but there is a stronger link between schools’ socio-economic intake and pupil outcomes. Major policy developments include: new assessment arrangements to better fit the Northern Ireland curriculum; a mechanism to follow up the results of external school evaluation; a proposal to create a single authority to manage and support all public schools; and new rights for pupils to have access to a wide choice of general and applied subjects at post-primary level.

  • Evaluation and assessment framework

    In important ways, Northern Ireland stands out internationally. As in all systems within the OECD review, different components (pupil assessment, school evaluation, teacher and school leader appraisal and school system evaluation) have been developed at different stages, but policy development in Northern Ireland aims to bring these together into a more coherent framework. There is a clear expectation that evaluation and assessment lead to improved pupil learning and outcomes but also a need for continued attention to implementing these policies.

  • Student assessment

    At the end of compulsory schooling, pupils are assessed in a system of external examinations leading to qualifications recognised throughout the United Kingdom. New pupil assessment procedures support the further implementation of the Northern Ireland curriculum. Teachers are responsible for pupil assessment and must report to parents on their child’s progress on at least an annual basis. A set of learning standards (Levels of Progression) has been developed to support a coherent assessment of pupil progress across Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 in cross-curricular skills. Central computer-based assessments are offered to primary schools to support pupil assessment in Communication and Using Mathematics.

  • Teacher appraisal

    The Performance Review and Staff Development Scheme (PRSD) is a comprehensive teacher appraisal system for all teachers in grant aided schools, based on a number of internationally recognised good principles. The annual process involves two lesson observations, a discussion of these observations between the reviewer and the teacher, and an action plan with objectives for personal and professional development in the following year. Teachers also get feedback during school inspections. A registration system confirms a teacher’s eligibility to teach, but does not involve an appraisal of the teacher’s performance or correspond to a step within the teacher’s career.

  • School evaluation

    For many years, schools have been required to undertake school development planning and offered supporting tools, but recent policies aim to strengthen the role of selfevaluation. A well established system of external school evaluation incorporates quality assurance and transparency of procedures and results. Since 2010, the Education and Training Inspectorate is rolling out a more proportionate and risk-based approach to school inspection, which puts an increased focus on school self-evaluation. The Department of Education produces comparative school performance measures that feed into school evaluation and are used to promote school system improvement. A Formal Intervention Process allows the Department to intervene more actively in schools that are identified as in need of improvement. There is a proposal to reorganise traditional school support services within a new Education and Skills Authority

  • System evaluation

    The Department of Education operates within a system of accountability and needs to demonstrate progress towards specified targets set for the school system. The major approach to collecting evidence on the school system is via a system of annual data collection from schools. Pupil outcomes are important measures for system performance. At the post-primary level these are aggregated from pupil qualifications at the end of compulsory schooling and at the primary level from teacher assessments against national standards. From 2012/13, teachers assess pupils’ cross-curricular skills against new learning standards (Levels of Progression), which are designed to provide valid measures against the Northern Ireland curriculum. To ensure reliability of the measures, a new moderation system is being introduced. Information from external school evaluation, research and international assessments also inform school system evaluation

  • Conclusions and recommendations

    Northern Ireland has had a politically difficult past with conflict and a highly divided society. In 1998 powers were devolved within the United Kingdom to a newly established Northern Ireland Assembly. Since 2007 there is a power sharing agreement between five political parties. The locally elected Minister of Education is responsible for setting policy direction and targets for the school system. Pupils in Northern Ireland study towards qualifications that are recognised throughout the United Kingdom within a National Qualifications Framework.

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    • The OECD Reviews on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes

      The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes is designed to respond to the strong interest in evaluation and assessment issues evident at national and international levels. It provides a description of design, implementation and use of assessment and evaluation procedures in countries; analyses strengths and weaknesses of different approaches; and provides recommendations for improvement. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation. The Review focuses on primary and secondary education.

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