First Published 17.09.15: The message that should have accompanied last year’s announcements of an interim teacher assessment framework for 2015-16, let alone the repeat this year.
Dear teachers & school leaders,
I hope your new term has started well, and that you and colleagues had an opportunity for some well-deserved rest over the summer break, given the rapid pace of change and the related workload that currently exists in schools.
I wanted to write to you all to express my sincere thanks for the efforts your profession has put into managing the wholesale change taking place in the curriculum over recent years, and that continues to take place in the structure of national testing and assessment.
I had honestly hoped that this term would begin with a full framework in place. Indeed, I had expected to be able to put everything in place well in advance, so that teachers would be well prepared for the changes we are marking. Unfortunately, I can only apologise for the delays that have beset us all and the additional challenges that this brings.
It turns out that designing a replacement assessment system for the new curriculum has been a lot more difficult than we in the department realised. I appreciate that many of you have raised concerns about this over the recent years, and in particular over the timescales given over to implementing these changes. Again, I can only apologise here: we got it wrong. Despite the many experts available to the department, we have been unable to construct a purposeful and manageable assessment system for the new curriculum in good time.
This failure is particularly striking, given the way in which schools up and down the country have risen to the challenge of the stringent timescales we set out for introducing the new curriculum. It is a matter of great embarrassment to me that we have not been able to match that success.
In an effort to alleviate the most urgent of problems, the department has produced an interim framework for teacher assessment. We recognise the disappointment that will be felt as a result of this further delay in securing proper process; this was not our intention. I hope that in due course teachers will appreciate the need to spend further time on this work to ensure that we get it right.
I appreciate the additional burdens this places on schools as they prepare both for the current year’s end-of-key-stage tests, and for those in forthcoming years. I have made it my duty to liaise with colleagues in Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners’ offices to ensure that there is clarity in those teams about the challenges schools are facing. No school should find itself under further pressure and scrutiny because of errors made in this department.
The task in the months and years ahead is for my department to work more closely with the profession, to plan out clear paths for developmental change, and to ensure that the barriers that currently prevent schools from developing the most effective approaches with curriculum and assessment are removed at the earliest convenience. I only hope that I can continue to draw on the evident willingness of the profession as we try to correct these mistakes for the benefit of the children for whom you so valiantly strive each day.
We let you down on this, and my whole department recognises the need to make amends. I hope that we can steer a more proper path through the next stages of the process as we aim to bring together an effective system of assessment that supports teachers and learning without additional burdens.