Category Archives: Assessment

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary

Michael Russell, the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, has issued a letter to all teachers outlining the plans to support the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. You can read the text of the letter below, or download the pdf by clicking here. Points which stand out from the letter include:

  • His committment to CfE – “I am fully committed to the principles and values of Curriculum for Excellence”
  • Confirmation the BtC5 will be published this month – “The Framework for Assessment will be published in January”
  • The announcement of another extra in-service day – “I am also persuaded of the need to provide a further in-service day. I am therefore pleased to confirm that this will be available in the summer term”

Full Text

Dear Colleague


The beginning of a New Year is traditionally a time to reflect on the achievements of the past and look forward with hope, ambition and imagination to what we can accomplish in the coming year. I wanted to write to you to offer my thanks to you and everyone working in our schools and other establishments for your work over the past year and to set out our plans for ensuring that you are reassured and equipped to take forward Curriculum for Excellence in the remainder of the academic year.

I firmly believe that Scottish education does its job well. This is due to the skills and talents of all those involved in educating our children, young people and adult learners. I also believe that we can do better by making better use of those skills and talents. I am fully committed to the principles and values of Curriculum for Excellence. Curriculum for Excellence is needed to ensure that Scotland has an education system that promotes and supports the highest possible standards of attainment and achievement. It is also necessary to ensure that our young people have the skills and knowledge they need for learning, life and work and to be prepared for life in the 21st century.

Thanks to the support of everyone involved in the education community, from those working on the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board to those adopting the new approaches in pre-school centres, schools, colleges and the wider education sector across Scotland, we have made good progress over the last year in taking forward Curriculum for Excellence.

The Experiences and Outcomes for the new curriculum were published in April 2009. Together with the framework for learning and teaching contained in Building the Curriculum 3, these set out the structure of the new curriculum. Building the Curriculum 4 – Skills for learning, life and work was published in October 2009

The Scottish Government announced future arrangements for National Qualifications in June 2009. The new arrangements will build upon the Experiences and Outcomes and so ensure that National Qualifications support the new curriculum. This was followed in September 2009 by the publication of our strategic vision for assessment for Curriculum for Excellence.

The publication of the Framework for Assessment later this month concludes the process of establishing, for the first time, an agreed framework for learning that applies to all sectors and stages. It has been achieved by extensive consultation and engagement with a very large number of practitioners and I believe we have a remarkable degree of unanimity about the principles underpinning our education system.

Our next challenge is to work together to ensure these principles are widely understood and effectively implemented for the benefit of all learners. I am committed to the principle that you, the practitioners, are best placed to make decisions about how to work with learners and their parents to improve learning outcomes. However, I also recognise that you will need advice and support and to share and learn from emerging good practice. I am equally committed to ensuring that detailed arrangements, for example in relation to assessment and qualifications, will improve national standards and are workable.

A great deal of good work is being done locally and nationally to support implementation.

As part of this process I want to take the opportunity to give you a road map for the period from now until June 2010 which will give you an indication of the level and nature of support at national level which you can expect and which will be augmented by locally led activity within your own authorities.

The focus will be on practical support for the three main strands of Curriculum for Excellence on which the high level principles have now been set out:

Curriculum – You are already beginning to work with the Experiences and Outcomes for each of the curriculum areas to improve learning and teaching. There is a range of support for staff on the Curriculum for Excellence website and from now until June 2010 there will be additional material as detailed on the timeline. Working with partners and stakeholders, Learning and Teaching Scotland will also provide materials to support school managers and staff in the planning process and there will continue to be events to support understanding. I recognise that one of the key challenges teachers now have is answering the many questions from parents and reassuring them that the very best is being done for their children. Quite rightly parents want to hear this from those teaching their children and that is why we are making a toolkit available later this month which will provide you with the resources needed to talk to parents, explaining what is happening and why. See video introduction to Parent toolkit.

National Qualifications –The Scottish Qualifications Authority and its partners are currently undertaking the detailed development and implementation work for the new and revised qualifications. The first element of that work is to convert the broad statement of policy made by my predecessor in June 2009 into a set of operational design principles that will underpin the development of the qualifications. SQA and the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board are close to the end of that process.

As with any new qualifications, SQA is ensuring that the teaching profession and stakeholders are fully involved in the qualifications design teams that will help develop the new Literacy & Numeracy and National 4 and 5 qualifications and the review of existing Access, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. Positive engagement with you is a critical factor in SQA ensuring the success of the qualifications development and implementation.

Their engagement model will involve a wide range of groups and individuals, including informal quality assurance groups. Regular updates on this work will be available from the SQA website

There are nine Curricular Area Review Groups with membership from nominated strategic stakeholders, such as the teaching unions and associations, LTS, HE/FE, employers and parents. These groups will work on the vision, skills and principles required for each curriculum area. Each curriculum area has engaged with local authorities, colleges and other interested groups involving over 400 practitioners.

Assessment – The Framework for Assessment will be published in January together with an associated paper on quality assurance and moderation. The Framework for Assessment develops the main areas of our assessment strategy: standards and expectations; assessing progress and reporting and monitoring standards. LTS will hold a series of events in January and February to support your understanding of the framework. Beginning at the start of the summer term you will be provided with assessment exemplars. These exemplars will show pupils’ work assessed by practitioners against the standards and expectations. The examples will be in the priority areas of
literacy and numeracy across all curriculum areas and health and wellbeing. Examples will be provided of every curriculum level and will provide illustrations of the three aspects set out in the Framework – the application, breadth and challenge of learning. They will explain how you move from the experiences and outcomes to judgements about how much or how well pupils have learned. From mid September, staff will have access to the new online National Assessment Resource.

We have already provided an additional 3 in-service days focussed on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. I am also persuaded of the need to provide a further in-service day. I am therefore pleased to confirm that this will be available in the summer term to provide you with the quality time that I recognise is essential to support implementation. My expectation would be that this day would be dedicated to gaining a clearer understanding of the requirements for assessment and the new quality assurance and moderation processes which will be set out in the Framework for Assessment. This is in addition to the substantial proportion of current in-service and other Continuing Professional Development activities for educational professionals which focus on the enhancement of learning and teaching in addition to assessment.

I have asked the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board to review progress and report its findings to me as we work towards full adoption of Curriculum for Excellence. I am also visiting schools, nurseries, colleges and universities to see at first-hand the progress which is being made.
Curriculum for Excellence will support the education community to improve learning and teaching, raise standards and enhance the life chances of our children and young people. I am confident that the package of work that I have described in this letter will give you the support that you need to use your skills and talents to improve Scottish education. I am looking forward immensely to working with you to make a success of Curriculum for Excellence and offer my best wishes for the year ahead.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

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The Role of Formative Assessment in the delivery CfE

Curriculum for Excellence states that “success in achieving the purposes and principles of the curriculum is likely if pupils are helped to become actively involved in their own learning”.

AifL is one of the most powerful teaching tools we have in Scottish Education. The expectation was that every school in Scotland would embrace AifL by June 2007.

The principles of CfE are supported and underpinned by the principles of formative assessment.

CfE argues that it is a pupil’s level of engagement in learning and self assessment that makes for a successful curriculum. The outcomes and experiences come from the perspective of the learner –

I can …………………….. outcomes     I have …………………………. experiences

The challenge then in our classrooms is to build independent, self motivated learners. This requires both students and teachers to change well established classroom habits and practices including the distribution of learning power.

The idea of relinquishing control is the scariest part of the process – that first step in the abseil off a cliff. But once that first step is taken and the descent slowly and carefully achieved, step by step with a few knocks on the way, the feeling of wellbeing and success when your feet touch the ground is fantastic. Making formative assessment the foundation of your teaching produces that same adrenalin rush.

The principles of CfE can be met by the principles of Formative Assessment –

  • Know what is to learned and why
  • Know what is needed to be successful
  • Know what to do to improve

These are principles that apply to any learner regardless of age or stage – they are the key to successful lifelong learning. They are the how of learning not the what.

It is now more than 10 years since AifL became a focus in Scottish education. During that time it has developed and evolved due to the work of teachers in classrooms not just at home but across the world. Formative assessment has proved to be the most sustainable “initiative” and has improved the learning experience for youngsters and the teaching & learning experience for teachers. It is recognised as a significant strategy in raising learner achievement.

The development and redefining of formative assessment strategies is evidenced in the updated works of Dylan Wiliam (2006) and Shirley Clarke (2008).

Shirley Clarke outlines the key strategies in formative assessment as

  • Creating a classroom culture in which all involved see ability as incremental rather than fixed
  • Involving pupils in planning both appropriately pitched content and meaningful contexts
  • Clarifying learning objectives and establishing pupil generated and therefore pupil owned success criteria
  • Enabling and planning effective classroom dialogic talk and worthwhile questioning
  • Involving pupils in analysis and discussion about what excellence consists of – not just the meeting of success criteria, but how to best meet them
  • Enabling pupils to be effective self- and peer- evaluators
  • Establishing continual opportunities for timely review and feedback from teachers and pupils, focusing on recognition of success and improvement needs, and provision of time to act on that feedback
    (Active Learning Through Formative Assessment, Hodder Education, 2008)

These strategies provide both teachers and learners with a framework on which to build. Teachers will adapt techniques to fulfil the strategies and provide variety within their classrooms BUT the principles need to be constant and the basis of school consistency.

The key test will be how actively engaged our pupils are in thinking, learning and assessing that learning. Formative assessment is the catalyst for bringing together so many key aspects of learning – eg thinking skills, creativity, motivation and helps make them part of the learning process and not something else to add on or fit in. This is what CfE is built on – the weaving together of rich, thought provoking experiences.

CfE AifL
challenges and enjoyment supportive classroom culture
breadth variety of meaningful contexts
progression planning next steps/success criteria
depth drawing different strands together
personalisation & choice ownership of learning
coherence making links with prior learning across the curriculum
relevance purpose & value of learning

All supported by sharing learning intentions, generating success criteria, self & peer assessment, effective dialogue and formative feedback – a successful mix.

CfE also stresses the positive relationships and the climate for learning in the classroom as well as the ethos and life of the school as a community. This is also the foundation of AifL.

At the Third International Conference on Assessment for Learning held in New Zealand on March 2009 it was restated that properly embedded into teaching-learning contexts, assessment for learning sets learners up for wide, lifelong learning – the foundation of CfE. The conference summed up their views with a second generation definition of Assessment for Learning.

Assessment for Learning is part of everyday practice by students, teachers and peers that seeks, reflects upon and responds to information from dialogue, demonstration and observation in ways that enhance ongoing learning.

They provided the following elaboration
1. “everyday practice” – refers to teaching and learning, pedagogy and instruction (different terms are used in different regions of the world but the emphasis is on the interactive, dialogic, contingent relationships of teaching and learning)
2. “by students, teachers and peers” – students are deliberately listed first because only learners can learn. Assessment for learning should be student centred. All AfL practices carried out by teachers (such as giving feedback, clarifying criteria, rich questioning) can eventually be “given away” to students so they can take on these practices to help themselves, and one another, to become autonomous learners. This should be the prime objective.
3. “seeks, reflects upon and responds to” – these words emphasise the nature of AfL as an enquiry process involving the active search for evidence of capability and understanding , making sense of such evidence, and exercising judgement for wise decision making about next steps for students and teachers.
4. “information from dialogue, demonstration and observation” – verbal (oral and written) and non-verbal behaviours both planned and unplanned events can be sources of evidence. Observation of these during ongoing teaching and learning activity is an important basis for AfL. Special assessment tasks and tests can be used formatively but are not essential; there is a risk of them becoming frequent mini-summative assessments. Everyday learning tasks and activities, as well as routine observation and dialogue are equally , if not more, appropriate for the formative purpose.
5. “in ways that enhance ongoing learning” – sources of evidence are formative if, and only if, students and teachers use the information they provide to enhance learning. Providing students with the help they need to know what to do next is vital; it is not sufficient to tell them only that they need to do better. However, such help does not need to provide a complete solution. Research suggests that what works best is an indication of how to improve, so that the students engage in mindful problem solving.

Ruth Sutton, educational consultant, has highlighted that in the Scottish context many educationalists –both teachers and LA managers view AfL as then and CfE as now rather than using them to support each other. She suggests viewing the successful strategies on which AfL is based as the tools for effective learning and teaching – eg questioning for learning, feedback for learning, self assessment for learning.

How can we create a Curriculum for Excellence and lifelong learners without the rich tapestry of formative assessment?

Ann McLanachan, Learning Team Development

Additions to the LTS Curriculum for Excellence website

We’ve received an update of all the recent additions to the LTS CfE Website from August to November 2009 in one document. We thought this was worth sharing here. It does not include Management Board minutes and papers that have been added to the site.


Assessment for Curriculum for Excellence (September 2009)

Assessment is a key strand of work in implementing Curriculum for Excellence.
At the Scottish Learning Festival on 23 September the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong learning, Fiona Hyslop, announced the publication of the strategic vision and key principles for assessment in Curriculum for Excellence.

Now available on the Curriculum for Excellence website the Assessment for Curriculum for Excellence document sets out the Scottish Government’s strategy on how to build on our existing strong foundations of effective approaches to assessment.

Building the curriculum & Building your curriculum

Building the Curriculum 4: Skills for learning, life and work (November 2009)

Building the Curriculum 4 aims to help all those who are involved in planning and delivering young people’s learning across all sectors and settings. It sets out key messages about how children and young people develop and apply skills as part of Curriculum for Excellence, so as to bring about the transformational changes needed to improve the life chances of young people in Scotland.

Building your curriculum (August 2009)

A new area entitled ‘Building your curriculum’ was added to the Curriculum for Excellence website in August 2009. This section offers materials designed to help schools and other establishments in designing curriculum structures that reflect the features set out in ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ and meet their local contexts and priorities.

Early insights (August 2009)

This section shows the progress some schools have been making in developing their own curriculum structures around transition, the senior phase and a broad general education, and the totality of the curriculum.

Pupil Voice (August 2009)

Three new videos were added to the Curriculum for Excellence website exploring what pupils and students want from their education, including their answers to four questions related to putting ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ into practice.

Building your curriculum – an inter-authority approach (October 2009)

This study outlines how six education authorities worked collaboratively with LTS and the Scottish Government to plan and deliver a joint event which would support schools in developing their thinking on curriculum structures and reflect the framework set out in ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ (BtC3).

Exemplification and case studies

Support for staff – exemplification of Curriculum for Excellence

Exemplification of good practice used in implementing the experiences and outcomes was published on the Curriculum for Excellence website from October onwards. The case studies provide staff with exemplars of how some schools in Scotland have started to implement Curriculum for Excellence.

Early level

Supporting the Early Level resource (October 2009)

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram launched the Curriculum for Excellence ‘Supporting the Early Level’ resource in October 2009. Information about the resource is on Early Years Online. The new DVD resource will help early years practitioners and teachers to develop successful practices in areas such as active learning, self evaluation, additional support needs and the learning environment – including making the best use of outdoor opportunities.

The Early Years Framework – Putting the Vision into Action (October 2009)

Outcomes from the HMIE/LTS Good Practice conference for early years that was held in the Hilton Hotel, Glasgow, on 9 June 2009.

Modern Languages

Working together to develop cultural awareness and multilingualism (October 2009)

Clarifying the learning: Sharing the standard (October 2009)

Using collaborative learning and peer mentoring to improve transition (October 2009)

Partnership working in modern languages using collaborative learning and ICT (October 2009)


Properties and uses of materials (October 2009)

Promoting science during primary to secondary transition (October 2009)

Social studies

Planning for the Scottish dimension (October 2009)

Improving engagement by developing literacy and numeracy in social studies (October 2009)

Scotland’s History Online (November 2009)


B!te: Big Ideas – Technical Education (October 2009)

Computing for Excellence – HMIE-LTS Good Practice conference for computing and information systems. This joint conference was held in the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline on 3 June 2009 (October 2009)

Healthy Eating project – Dollar Academy (October 2009)

Blast from the Past – Scottish history project (October 2009)


Growing up with Loch Leven – exploring literacy across learning (October 2009)

Social studies and literacy at third level (October 2009)


Co-operative learning activities: an active approach to teaching numeracy (October 2009)

Using numbers to count – pathways to numeracy (October 2009)

‘In the Doghouse’, a numeracy across learning project (October 2009)


Planning an interdisciplinary study on China (November 2009)

Planning for a broad general education (November 2009)

16+ Learning Choices in action (November 2009)

More Choices, More Chances – Alva Academy (August 2009)

Other resources

CfE News (September 2009)

CfE News – a newspaper for practitioners – was developed to showcase and signpost practitioners to just some of the support, advice and online resources available on the CfE website. 96,000 copies were issued in September across the entire educational community

Keynote presentations and three workshops (September 2009)

The keynote presentation and the three workshops from the nationwide ‘Turning the experiences and outcomes into action’ events which took place last session were put up on the CfE website to offer support for the next stage of implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. These materials can provide the groundwork for further discussion within educational establishments, for example during in-service days.

Experiences and outcomes by level (November 2009)

The experiences and outcomes can now be downloaded by level as Word and PDF documents. These levels documents have been added to the ‘Getting started’ section of the website.


Trailer for Parent Toolkit (November 2009)

In January, a Curriculum for Excellence toolkit to support all practitioners as they engage with parents and carers will be launched. As implementation gets underway it will help all those who work with children and young people to deliver key information around Curriculum for Excellence and answer questions parents and carers may have about how it will affect their own child.

Assessment Update

I attended the LTS Assessment Seminar on 2nd December and received lots of information on assessment which I thought I’d best share here.

We started with an update from the Scottish Government. They’re assuming there will be no change in policy direction as a result of the recent cabinet reshuffle in terms of assessment. The Strategic Vision document was highlighted once again. The two major changes highlighted in this document are the NAR and Moderation. The framework for assessment (Building the Curriculum 5) is due for publication in January 2010. BtC5 is quite a substantial document (as long as BtC3) and elaborates on the points in the Strategic Vision. It was stressed that BtC5 builds on the principles of AifL. There will be a printed copy for every practitioner in Scotland. BtC5 will be accompanied by a 10 page executive summary, a poster with key messages and a Quality Assurance & Moderation Paper. This QA paper provides clear delineation and expectations and outlines roles and responsibilities for schools, local authorities, Scottish Government, LTS & SQA. It was stated that the Government recognises the massive impact of these changes on schools.

In terms on National Qualifications it was stated that it was unreasonable to assume SQA can produce National 4/5’s, new Literacy & Numeracy qualifications and update Access, Higher and Advanced Higher at the same time. Programme is as follows:

  • 2012/13 – National Numeracy & Literacy
  • 2013/14 – National 4/5 & Access 3 replaces SG Foundation
  • 2014/15 – Higher
  • 2015/16 – Advanced Higher

There is a commitment to making arrangements available one year before a NQ becomes available.

The Scottish Survey of Achievement is currently under review. Currently trialing Numeracy materials. Report will be published online in February 2010.

A new CfE Management Board Subgroup has been set up to look at S3 Profile, Recognising Achievement & Reporting. National Guidance is due on this by August 2010. There is not an urgency for guidance on the S3 Profile and this may be later.

The final message from the Scottish Government update was that the National Assessment Resource will not be live any earlier than 30th August 2010 and might not be properly populated until September 2010. LTS are investigating how to make some aspects of the NAR available earlier.

The rest of the day was spent on the National Assessment Resource. LTS stressed that progress and achievement in CfE involves breadth of learning, challenge within learning and applying learning in new and unfamiliar situations.

What is the NAR?

  • Support for CfE assessment, NQ and national monitoring arrangements.
  • Examples of assessment approaches and evidence relating to experiences and outcomes across the curriculum areas, stages and levels.
  • Examples and guidance for CPD in assessment.
  • Initial focus on literacy, numeracy and health & wellbeing across learning.
  • Opportunities for professionals to design and contribute to the NAR.

Local Authorities have been asked to identify three establishments to be involved in developing content for the NAR – one early years, one primary and one secondary. Practitioners in these establishments will work with LTS/SQA to develop a package for the NAR focusing on one/two Literacy, Numeracy or Health & Wellbeing Experiences & Outcomes. This will be carried out across Scotland and LTS/SQA will ensure that packages are produced for Literacy, Numeracy & Health & Wellbeing at all levels and in all Curricular Areas.

What should these ‘packages’ look like?
“A documented account of how you got from E&O’s to judgements about how much and how well pupils have learned what was intended.“

  • A note of E&O’s in bundle explored
  • An account of the learning experiences provided
  • Examples of what a few pupils did in response to the experience(s): video/audio/paper/photos/online/multimedia
  • Note of the criteria used to evaluate the evidence
  • Notes about the features of learning shown by the evidence and proposed feedback to pupils

We’re currently in discussions with three schools who are interested in being involved in this process.

On a final note, I just wanted to highlight the assessment & achievement section of the LTS site which contains lots of information on assessment: