Education

Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin 2:00 pm, 12th March 2013

We need to assess to benchmark and to see exactly how we are performing.  We also need to benchmark to ensure that we can then share best practice.  However, It is about getting the quantity and quality of benchmarking right.  The Member will be aware that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been with us in recent days.  One of the areas that it has been looking at is how we use assessments.  The OECD will give us an international perspective on how we use assessments.  I look forward to the report, which will be published in around June time.  We will learn from that report.

The Member will also be aware that we are reviewing the use of computer-based assessments in primary schools.  We are looking at that from several different angles, and I await that report as well.  If there are lessons to be learnt and actions to be taken, those actions will be taken.  I want to ensure, as every Member does, that teaching staff spend as much time in the classroom teaching as possible.  However, part of that is assessment: assessment of their own role, assessment of the classroom's role etc.  However, I want to get the balance right.  The OECD and the review of computer-based assessments will allow us to do that.

Levels of progression is another area about which teachers have expressed concern to me.  Levels of progression are under review.  We are reviewing those over the year.  We are talking to teacher representatives and the unions. The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is reviewing constantly.  We will evaluate levels of progression, too, at the end of the first year.