Curriculum, Qualifications and Assessment
NASUWT members continue to identify excessive planning as a significant contributor to excessive workload and bureaucracy in schools. The NASUWT's model planning polices are available below. You can also find there a streamlined lesson planning sheet used in a secondary school that was recently evaluated as outstanding by Ofsted.
Curriculum in the UK
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
By law, all children of compulsory school age (between 5 and 16) must receive a full-time education. The National Curriculum was introduced fully by 1992 and state schools are required to adhere to it until students reach age 16. However, independent schools and, in England, academies are not required to do so.
The Coalition Government has embarked on an extensive review of the National Curriculum. Resources setting out the Union's position on this emerging agenda are available on this page. The NASUWT will ensure that members are kept fully up to date on the Review as it progresses and on its potential implications for members.
Scotland has its own qualification framework that is separate from that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. After seven years of primary education and four years of compulsory secondary education, students aged 15 to 16 may take the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE). The Scottish Certificate of Education is recognized throughout Britain as the equivalent to GCE A-levels and is usually the entry qualification for university.
The Scottish curriculum is currently going through a national review called A Curriculum for Excellence with the aim of developing a streamlined curriculum for 3-18-year-olds and implementing new approaches to assessment.
Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Management Board Meetings
The NASUWT has represented members’ interests in two key meetings of the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board, in March and June 2015. The meeting in June 2015 also involved the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (the OECD). During both meetings, the NASUWT robustly represented the interests of classroom teachers and is the only union which has deployed a classroom teacher in these crucial meetings.
CfE Management Board Meeting – 4 March 2015
This meeting included focus group discussions with S4 – S6 High School pupils exploring their experience about the new National Qualifications.
The most significant point to emerge from the group attended by NASUWT was the feeling of pupils that there are too many internal assessments and too much pressure on pupils to pass these. One pupil referred to them as ‘wee exams’. The NASUWT later highlighted the importance of this to the Schools Minister – evidence for internal assessments is supposed to be gathered from day-to-day classwork, which is clearly not the case in this and many other schools. The Minister acknowledged that this was not the intended approach.
The NASUWT then addressed its comments about the Senior Phase of CfE to the Scottish Government. The NASUWT welcomed the comments on treating S4-S6 as a single cohort and utilising the Bypass of some qualifications for capable pupils but highlighted the current reluctance of most schools to try this. Furthermore, the NASUWT expressed concern about the inequities caused by allowing individual schools to decide upon the number and range of qualifications offered which had led to, for example, neighbouring schools giving a core subject different amounts of time.
The NASUWT requested that the forthcoming Follow-Up Report on Tackling Bureaucracy be distributed to all schools and teachers. This was agreed – the NASUWT has therefore ensured widespread circulation of the Report.
CfE Management Board Meeting – 1 June 2015
This event began with a meeting with the OECD, which gave the NASUWT the opportunity to present the position of Scottish teachers to OECD officials.
During the meeting with the OECD the NASUWT
- highlighted the strength of the CfE Management Board’s collegiate approach (citing the Tackling Bureaucracy report as a key example);
- indicated a welcome for the notion that teachers would have more freedom to teach what they thought was appropriate for their pupils;
- highlighted that there was a key tension between this freedom and some schools using it to move away from CfE principles (for example, the continued use of significant course choices in S2 rather than S3);
- strongly criticised the abolition of the Chartered Teacher (CT) Scheme when the Scottish Government claims it wants a research-led, Masters-level profession. This last point provoked some discussion on why the CT Scheme had been abolished – the OECD was advised by the Scottish Government that it was done to save money;
- welcomed the new Curriculum Learning Teaching and Assessment (CLTA) Fora and the notion that these would alleviate the need for major curricular change in future, but argued that this would need careful management and monitoring;
- raised the most recent NASUWT survey of teachers, which suggested workload and working hours were excessive and more teachers than ever were seriously considering leaving the profession.
During the meeting with the Scottish Government the NASUWT:
- pressed the Government on progress on the commitment to have a further debate on some key issues emerging from the Reflections Report on the implementation of the new National Qualifications;
- referred to SQA markers and highlighted concerns regarding a lack of markers and increased pressure on those who were participating, with evidence of them being issued with large numbers of additional examination papers. SQA acknowledged the difficulties but said that there were now sufficient numbers of markers and expressed confidence that the process would be completed on time and to the required standard.
- In response to a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) report on difficulties with this year’s Higher Maths examinations, highlighted member responses which directly contradicted SQA comments: the feeling of many teachers was that more A/B questions were used than normal and the language of some questions made it too difficult for pupils to understand the mathematics problem to which they were being asked to respond.
The NASUWT will continue to press key points, and argue for the interests of Scottish teachers, in the forthcoming reconvened National Qualifications Reflections Group.
Assessment, use of performance data and target setting
The NASUWT has produced detailed advice and guidance for teachers on the use of pupil performance data in schools and the setting of targets for teachers.
Following discussions with the Welsh Government over the administration and the marking of the literacy and numeracy tests that will be undertaken by learners from year two through to year nine in May, the NASUWT/NUT offers the following points of clarification to school representatives and members.
- Teachers should not be expected to administer the tests, unless they form part of a timetabled lesson and are undertaken in the teacher’s classroom.
- Teachers should not be expected to prepare their classrooms for the tests.
- Teachers should not be expected to mark the tests.
- Teachers should not be expected to input data from the tests.
This position reflects the views expressed to the NASUWT/NUT by Welsh Government officials and statements made by the Minister, and can be supported by the joint national action.
The NASUWT/NUT expects all schools to put in place arrangements that comply fully with these four points.
If resolution cannot be reached through contact with your headteacher and, if necessary, with the Chair of Governors, the matter will be referred with a view to escalation of the national action to protect you from this additional and unnecessary workload.