This gives schools a mandate (as outlined in diagram 1
identify clearly the learning that will meet the
needs of its pupils
collect adequate, valid and useful data pertaining
to pupil achievement in those aspects
use that data to:
develop and review programmes aimed to meet the identified
identify individuals or groups of students of concern
report on relevant pupil progress
High quality teaching
“The focus of reviewers
will be to find answers to these questions:
We see here a focus on
effective teaching that is targeted at meeting identified needs, utilises
assessment as an effective tool, builds on pupils’ prior knowledge, is
responsive to curriculum changes and is based on sound pedagogy. This raises
the emphasis on curriculum coverage?
the emphasis on time consuming assessment and recording?
The answer is clear. It no
longer comes from the Ministry or ERO. There is a very
strong expectation from ERO that schools will be innovative and creative in
developing and revising their instructional programmes to meet the needs of
the pupils within the scope of the National Curriculum Framework.
Some teachers are then likely to ask, sceptically, whether this theory will
be carried out in practice. To check this, we can examine the reports being
posted on the ERO website as a result of the new Education Reviews. Though
we have only a small number of these new reviews, it is informative to
examine and compare some of the comments made by ERO in terms of the three
issues of Assessment, Self Review and Curriculum Coverage. (The following
are direct quotes from published reviews but the specific schools will not
be identified here.)
“have developed a system that generates useful and reliable assessment
information in all areas of the curriculum. They implement a summative
assessment plan and make appropriate use of assessment data to make
judgements about student achievement and progress.”
The indication above is that
the system is effective across the curriculum and facilitates
decision-making and review processes. Note the contrast with the following
statement indicating that assessment and recording are occurring, but in a
manner that is ineffective for any review of learning.
yet, there is no school-wide system to collate the information on curriculum
coverage. This is recorded by individual teachers for their own classes.
The absence of an overview limits the ability of the principal to formally
monitor curriculum delivery and to assure the board that all students
receive appropriate breadth and depth in each curriculum area.”
sound school-wide framework provides clear direction for the gathering and
recording of assessment information. …. Teacher implementation of the
school's procedures is consistent. … School-wide aggregation and analysis
of student achievement information provides the basis for in-depth reviews
of targeted curriculum areas.” For
this school there is a difference in the depth of assessment and
recording across the curriculum areas. The system in place values teacher
judgment, which is supported by effective data used for reporting and
planning. By contrast we find a comment like
teachers need to make sure that assessment provides information that helps
students in their learning, and enables teachers to evaluate and report the
effectiveness of learning programme”
which expresses concern that the assessment carried out is not useful
in terms of measuring pupil achievement against the identified learning
needs. What a waste of time for busy teachers!
“Through its internal quality monitoring processes the management team has
identified that the next developmental steps should focus on further
refinement in specifying learning outcomes in unit planning. The Office
agrees with this finding. More specific outcomes should lead to improved
planning for focused teaching, learning sequences and assessment tasks”.
This interesting comment indicates a school that has a good self review
process in place, through which they have identified a need, ERO agree and
support the next step. Elsewhere we can find comments like: “At present
trustees receive insufficient information about student achievement for them
to identify the trends and patterns of student achievement for groups of
children over time. As a result, they do not know how well they are
promoting student achievement”. The concern here is the inability of
the school to identify any trends and patterns over time, therefore
contributing to inadequate self review.
ERO saying about this?
of the ERO reports for the phrase “curriculum coverage” (carried out on
23.5.2002) turned up 629 reports containing the phrase. Of these the phrase
only occurred in 7 of the 71 new Education Reviews.
One school requested that ERO look
at “curriculum integration” and the ERO comment is “A
partially integrated model of curriculum delivery has been adopted. Reading
and numeracy, however, remain as discreet (sic) entities on classroom
timetables. Other strands of the English curriculum are taught in the
context of other essential learning areas. This model was adopted to develop
language in meaningful contexts and to meet curriculum coverage
requirements. Advisory support has assisted teachers to plan and implement
the model.” This school has created its own solution to meeting
language needs by using curriculum areas as the context for its language
programme. There was no emphasis from ERO on coverage; the emphasis came
from the school. This occurred in 2 other schools that requested ERO
specifically to look at some aspect of curriculum coverage.
Another school received this comment: “Unit
plans identify achievement objectives chosen for assessment without a focus
on planning to meet the curriculum coverage requirements outlined in school
here is that the school has policies that outline the expected curriculum
coverage but there is no link between the assessment and the expected
coverage. The focus from ERO is on a mismatch between documentation and
practice and this was the finding in the remainder of the reviews that
mentioned curriculum coverage.
major pressure for curriculum focus that we have historically associated
with ERO has been replaced with a new focus on
identifying pupil learning needs and having a process in place that aims to
meet those needs.
problems being identified under the new reviews fall into 4 main categories.
Assessment is not providing an adequate enough foundation for the
school to make well-informed decisions in their review process.
Their self review process is inadequate
Schools have no valid review process in place.
Processes put in place are ineffective in terms of facilitating
Where do I get the time?
question has been answered by the other two. The message is that teachers do
have time. We have our pupils in class for roughly 5 hours a day, 5 days a
week. We have the challenge to define what we consider as important learning
for our children and the freedoms to make that learning a reality. We must
ensure that we do not allow ourselves to be robbed of this time because we
have not defined the learning we really want to occur and because we are not
delivering relevant learning opportunities.
want our pupils to achieve better thinking and learning strategies, problem
solving skills, communication skills, collaborative and social skills then
surely these are what we should build into the curriculum for our school and
actually teach. We have been given permission, if not a mandate, by ERO and
the Ministry to do just this. However, these revised expectations have one
further hurdle to overcome before they become reality in our schools. This
obstacle is identified by David Perkins (1992, p52) who criticises most
educational settings because they “neither labour very hard to build
teachers’ knowledge of new educational perspectives nor allow teachers the
flexibility or freedom from the coverage fetish to pursue more enlightened
instruction”. This is a new perspective and it is up to the leadership
in our schools to ensure that these freedoms become a reality in our schools
for the benefit of all concerned.