By Patricia Broadfoot

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Across the border in Scotland and only a little further away in Northern Ireland, significant differences in both policy and reaction to it were apparent. In what was to prove a fascinating and rewarding comparative study, the Task Group both identified the key differences between these three education systems and sought to understand the reasons why assessment policies had developed more or less differently in the systems in question. It was as part of this latter quest that the Task Group set up the two seminars referred to above in which distinguished policy theorists, as well as individuals involved in policy-making itself, were invited to make contributions to two days of discussion aimed at broadening and deepening the comparative insights being pursued.

To the extent that there are genuine differences in public and professional response, what are the reasons for these? A range of assessment purposes It is worth underlining once more the problem identified in the Task Group's first paper of the detrimental effects of publishing results of pupil assessment. Experience quoted there from USA warned of negative effects on pupils, on teachers and on institutions. As UK policy is translated into practice we see signs of unwanted effects not, thankfully, of malpractice in testing, but of an undue respect for test procedures and results.

The Northern Ireland Minister's response to the NISEAC proposals have brought these much more into line with those of England and Wales, both with regard to individual pupils, where levels have to be recorded for each attainment target (rather than the subject as a whole as initially proposed), and in relation to providing summaries of school results. The APU in Northern Ireland was dependent upon England and Wales and has been abandoned with it. In Scotland the equivalent Assessment of Achievement Programme (AAP) is still in operation, providing national performance data from anonymous samples of pupils in English, mathematics and science.

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