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O’Dowd welcomes progress on computer-based assessments

12 November, 2012 - by John O'Dowd

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has advised the remaining primary schools still to complete their Computer-Based Assessments that an interim solution to overcome the technical difficulties has been implemented.

The issues, faced by some schools, had arisen as pupils in Key Stage 2 (Years 4-7) had been completing the assessments, particularly with literacy. In a letter to schools, the Minister explained that an interim solution has been implemented to overcome these difficulties and that any schools which encounter any remaining issues would be fully supported by the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and network provider C2k who would provide on-site support if necessary.

Minister O’Dowd said:

“The Computer-Based Assessment programmes for literacy and numeracy are in their first year of operation and some schools had encountered technical difficulties when using the tests. Once I became aware of this issue, I met the heads of both CCEA and the Western Education and Library Board (which runs the C2k system). I also talked directly with those who are contracted to provide the assessments and those who are contracted to run the C2k system.

"Following extensive work by all involved, I am now satisfied that the main technical difficulties encountered have been addressed and that any remaining issues are manageable. As a result, I have written today to principals of all primary schools to advise those that have not yet commenced the assessments that they should do so.

“I am pleased to note that despite these difficulties, and thanks to the hard work and commitment of teachers in our primary schools, over 78% of pupils have already completed the assessments. Indeed, this is broadly comparable to the numbers that had completed the existing InCAS tests at the same stage last year.”

The Minister continued:

“CCEA has begun to contact those schools yet to start their assessments to ensure that they are able to make progress and report outcomes to parents as planned. For schools which started the assessments but felt unable to continue, they should put in place arrangements to allow their pupils’ assessments to proceed. CCEA is in the process of contacting the schools who registered technical difficulties this term to facilitate this. I have also made clear that if any school encounters any difficulty with any aspect of the tests, CCEA and C2K will be available to assist, including providing on-site support should that be necessary.

“Looking to the future, I have requested a full report from CCEA on the operation of the new assessments. This will include an analysis of why the difficulties experienced by schools were not apparent to the same extent during the extensive trial period. In addition, the Education and Training Inspectorate is already planning a survey to determine how effectively schools make use of this assessment information and I will review its findings later in this school year.”

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