NEU (then ATL) members in schools balloted for industrial action in 2013. The majority of schools voted by over 95 per cent in favour of action – that being non co-operation with DE/CCEA end of key stage 3 (cross-curricular) assessments.
This action was initiated as a result of the conviction that the current arrangements are of limited benefit to pupils, parents and teachers, and may even distort other priorities in learning.
The NEU considers that the DE/CCEA designed assessment process places an unreasonable workload on teachers. The balance of workload, notably at key stage 3 on English, Maths and ICT departments, is acute and gives a lie to the notion that the process is genuinely “cross-curricular”.
The arrangements encroach significantly into the teaching and learning time of pupils and teachers. The process lacks the confidence of teachers and, we believe, of parents. Our concern is that standards in education will be negatively affected.
The process is unreasonable, unworkable, and clearly not fit for purpose.
- The industrial action has been very popular with NEU members.
- We detect no desire to end our action.
- The action will continue pending a workable, workload-proofed alternative.
In response to correspondence to schools from CCEA we are further reinforcing our advice to all NEU members not to co-operate with the end of key stage assessment arrangements.
For avoidance of doubt, non co-operation means non co-operation with each and every aspect of the Department of Education (DE) and Council for Curriculum, Examinations and assessment (CCEA) process, including:
- use of levels
- input or submission of levels
- preparation of tasks
- submission of tasks
- preparation of lessons in relation to DE/ CCEA tasks
- internal and external moderation
- attendance at training events
- dialogue with DE or CCEA staff in relation to any part of the process
- any other duty associated with the DE/CCEA arrangements
Bearing this in mind, the NEU advises that assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning, and it remains an important and contractual element in the professional responsibilities of teachers. The ‘Jordanstown agreement’ states:
“included in the professional duties which a teacher may be required to perform are … assessing, recording and reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils;”
Therefore, NEU members should continue to professionally assess pupils in all other ways by agreement with their school. The NEU deeply regret that the Department of Education (DFE) remain wedded to a system which clearly does not enjoy the confidence of teachers. We acknowledge that negotiations with the former minister and departmental officials have mitigated – to an extent – the flawed system design, notably in that:
- the DFE no longer hold school level assessment data
- individual pupil portfolios are no longer a feature of moderation
However, the jury remains out on whether ETI (or other arms-length bodies) may use key stage assessment data inappropriately.
We reiterate our willingness to re-engage in negotiations, but on a more fundamental basis as set out in the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council policy position paper “Rising to the Challenge."
It is particularly galling that the DFE should require compliance with the flawed system of key stage assessment as a condition of receiving shared education funding – a manoeuvre which NEU can only treat as a hostile act and one which is punitive to applicant schools.
Schools seeking shared education funding should contact Mark Langhammer at the NEU directly for further guidance.