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

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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.



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


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