Autumn/Winter 2021 conference news
By eAA Chief Executive, Matt Wingfield
The past few weeks have seen the long-awaited return of some key in-person events in the education calendar, including the annual conferences of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), the Association of Colleges (AoC), and finally the Schools and Academies Show.
It was great to have the opportunity to get back out and meet people face to face after such a long period of virtual meetings and working from home, and it was clear that many people felt the same.
Given that all parts of the education sector were impacted by the pandemic and had to rapidly pivot learning and assessment delivery models, there was unsurprisingly a great deal of debate at all three conferences around the role that technology played in supporting the sector during this testing period.
At the FAB conference, in front of a capacity audience, it was particularly interesting to hear Jo Saxton, Ofqual’s newly appointed Chief Regulator, talking about the important role of remote assessments and invigilation. She also mentioned that Ofqual will be including guidance on remote assessments/invigilation as part of their revised regulatory frameworks. My personal view is that this positive signal from Ofqual will encourage more AOs and EPAOs to explore and make greater use of remote assessment technologies moving forwards.
The AoC conference saw a specific session focused on the future of assessment, where a number of organisations including the AoC themselves, along with the AOs – AQA, NCFE and Pearson – laid out their plans for modernising the approach to assessment.
This included the publication of AoC’s own draft principles for the future of assessment, which include:
- Assessment which promotes inclusion and equality;
- Assessment which serves the needs of learners and the curriculum;
- Assessment which values achievement and supports progression;
- Reducing the workload and cost of assessment;
- Applying new technologies to support assessment;
- A policy and regulatory framework which is fit for purpose; and
- A clear process for change with all stakeholders on board.
For me, the focus on assessment that supports the needs of learners and the curriculum is the key to unlocking the effectiveness of educational assessment and ensuring it is both modern and fit for purpose. An all to obvious statement, but something that it could be argued many high stakes assessments have not been delivering for some time. I also applaud the focus on greater use of formative assessments to value and support student achievement and support progression – again, something that has hitherto not been focused on perhaps as much as it should have been in some sectors.
It was heartening to hear Alex Scharaschkin, AQA’s Director of Research and Regulation and Philip Avery, Director of Education at the Bohunt Education Trust, both speaking at the Schools and Academies Show, highlighting the importance of using technology to empower the move to more modern approaches to assessment, especially in high stakes summative assessments. This was echoed by other organisations speaking at the same conference, including JISC and the Education Training Foundation.
This focus on modernising assessment and making greater use of technology were common themes running through all three conferences. For me, the key here is to ensure that we learn from and propagate the fantastic innovation we have seen right across the sector during the last 18 months. We need to continue to build on this, to make greater use of e-assessment technologies to deliver a truly modern and fit for purpose approach to assessment that supports the success of students, and it was heartening to hear this sentiment being so publicly and loudly encouraged at these conferences.
Matt Wingfield, eAA Chief Executive