Excellence in Assessment (Schools)
The CIEA’s Excellence in Assessment (Schools) accreditation is a great way for schools to find out about themselves and assessment, and to demonstrate their excellence formally and with pride. Project director Dr Christopher Reynolds is delighted to report that, one year on, the scheme is going from strength to strength
It started life in 2014 badged initially as a corporate scheme in its early development. Then, as flesh was put onto the bones, the talented and experienced group who were developing it became clearer as to what the Chartered Institute needed and what would be useful to schools: the accreditation programme was born.
The initial pilot had just two schools, one a primary, the other a secondary. So much was learnt from that experience. The framework was effective, the schools valued it, and work on refining the paperwork began. Right from the start it was agreed that whatever was developed should be more than a tick-box, should be helpful for schools, and yet not be a burden. It should also be something that had longevity, not just a badge that once achieved was forgotten.
The second pilot built on that and the tranche of schools that took part were enthusiastic and welcomed their outcomes. More fine-tuning took place, this time with the experience of applying the scheme to a wide range of schools, primary to secondary; and across the whole gamut of Ofsted grading, Outstanding to Special Measures.
Then in the summer of 2015 the pilot finished and the accreditation programme was in full swing. For some, it has been a validation of what they are doing, an external and objective look through a magnifying glass. Even these schools discover something they have missed or forgotten, or have not prioritised sufficiently. For others, it has generated a focus, and the process has taken a little longer as they change ways of doing things, develop new policies, improve protocols. For yet others, it has taken them right back to first principles. They have asked themselves, why are we assessing? How are we assessing? What do we do with the outcomes of assessment? Is there a better way of assessing? How does it fit in with the whole school community and with learning?
As we approach the anniversary of our first full year, the project goes from strength to strength. Nursery, primary, secondary and special schools have gone through accreditation. A small and well-trained team of assessors provide the evaluation of the school’s evidence and then provide the recommendation for accreditation. Sometimes, as a school embarks on the journey to accreditation there is recognition that there are too many holes. The process can then be put on hold, and another assessor appointed as a consultant with a strong focus on the filling the gaps, helping the school recognise what is needed and showing them how to act on that recognition.
One interesting outcome has been the move in some schools to enable staff to carry out research into assessment, not only looking at their own institution, but also looking outside to see what is out there and whether it might be of use. The partnership with the University of Hertfordshire may give opportunities for such research to be taken further. Another outcome has been a desire from some schools for one of their staff to become a Chartered Assessor. Work is underway currently in the Institute to revise the programme to be followed for someone to achieve Chartered Assessor status.
A school that achieves accreditation has gone through a detailed and thorough process, covering everything to do with assessment from first principles to how it is exemplified. The accreditation lasts for three years when it will then be reviewed.
Does the developmental nature of the accreditation process water down the final approval? Absolutely not! A school that achieves accreditation has gone through a detailed and thorough process, covering everything to do with assessment from first principles to how it is exemplified. The accreditation lasts for three years when it will then be reviewed.
It has been my privilege as Project Director to visit some schools as part of the Chartered Institute’s quality assurance. I have experienced staff enthusiasm about assessment, and been able to see the varied ways they have approached the accreditation process. It is fair to say that Excellence in Assessment (Schools) has changed schools and changed the staff who have been engaged with the process. One of my roles is to deal with complaints from schools that have gone through the process. Well, I haven’t had any!
The government has made it clear how important assessment is – and Excellence in Assessment (Schools) is a great way for schools to find out about themselves and assessment, and to demonstrate their excellence formally and with pride.