28 November, 2007 - Assessment – getting it right for your child - Purpose is to map children's progress and identify areas where help may be needed - Minister Hanafin

"Effective assessment of children's progress throughout primary school is at the heart of teaching and learning and it is hugely important that both the child and their parents are given feedback" said the Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin T.D., today.The Minister was launching new guidelines for primary teachers and schools which provide up to date information and examples of how teachers gather and report information about children's progress and achievement throughout their school years. 
The new publication, Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools, produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), will be distributed to all teachers in the coming weeks. Minister Hanafin launched the publication at a special event at St Clare's National School in Harold's Cross, Dublin.
Minister Hanafin said that teachers undertake a variety of assessment methods for children right throughout their schooling in order to ensure that they are progressing well, meeting their full potential and to support them in making decisions about their future learning."The challenge for teachers is to make all these assessment methods a natural part of their classroom practice and in this way create a space for children's voices to be heard about how and what they are learning.
These new guidelines also include information on standardised testing, as one of the assessment methods, which is now a requirement for children at two stages during the primary years - at the end of 1st class/beginning of 2nd and at the end of 4th class/beginning of 5th class. Testing children in this way, at key points, has the advantage of providing objective information on a child's achievement enabling it to be compared with national norms. The information on the child's progress will be provided to parents and in this way both the class teacher and parents can see how the individual child is progressing and if there are any interventions required in order to assist with their learning."
Deputy Chief Executive of the NCCA, Dr. Sarah FitzPatrick, said that while the Primary School Curriculum (1999) explains 'the why' of assessment in primary schools, these guidelines describe 'the how' of assessment to make learning more enjoyable, more motivating and more successful for each child. "Assessment is about building a picture over time of a child's progress in learning across the curriculum. Assessment goes far beyond just testing because it concerns the daily interactions between the teacher and each child including rich conversations, observations and actions."
The NCCA has also produced two user friendly information leaflets on the website, www.ncca.ie especially for parents to understand the results of standardised tests.These leaflets also explain the teacher and school obligations under the Education Act and the Data Protection Act.
Minister Hanafin said that "reporting to parents on their children's work is a very important part of the issues covered in the Guidelines, with feedback to be given to parents twice during the school year, with at least one written report." The NCCA has developed a range of report card templates in consultation with the schools, which will be available on their website in the coming months.
The Minister went on to say that testing of pupils would not lead to a situation where every child was being tested on the same day, so creating a stressful situation or undue pressure for young pupils. As assessments are used throughout the school year, it will be for the classroom teacher to decide when the best time to conduct standardised tests with their own pupils."It is also the case that pupils will not be able to study for such tests, so no-one has an advantage over their peers. These standardised tests are a sample of how your child understands the work that they have been doing in the school, and if a teacher sees that a pupil does not perform as expected they can look at the factors which might be causing it, for example if a child was unwell, and the results can be discussed with the parent or guardians.
This is vital work in the continuing enhancement of our education system, designed to ensure that children?s progress is carefully monitored and reviewed on a regular basis within schools and that their ongoing learning is informed by continuous assessment, there is early identification of learning difficulties and that parents are kept informed of their children's learning " concluded Minister Hanafin. 


For more information contact:

Dr. Sarah FitzPatrick ,

Deputy Chief Executive, NCCA

 Phone: 01-7996420 or sarah.fitzpatrick@ncca.ie