Assessment arrangements in primary and post-primary schools including the purpose of assessments, key stage assessment, levels of progression, computer based assessment and longer term changes.

Purpose of assessment

Assessment lets teachers see what progress your child is making and provides teachers with information which assists them to plan how to help pupils make further progress.

Assessment also enables schools to report information to you as a parent, as well as information to help older children make choices about the examination courses they will follow and the qualifications and careers they will seek.

Assessment also helps schools to set targets for the future and to measure their performance. This information also lets government monitor the performance of the schools’ system generally.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Report

A report by the OECD into Northern Ireland’s education system was published on 10 December 2013.

The review, which focused on how assessment and evaluation systems could deliver improvements for pupils, was carried out in late February and early March 2013 by independent experts from other OECD countries.

Key stage assessment - Levels of Progression

Literacy and numeracy are at the heart of the statutory curriculum. The importance of these skills is emphasised through the cross-curricular skills of Communication and Using mathematics, which were introduced during the 2012/13 school year. A third cross-curricular skill, Using ICT, was introduced in the 2016/17 school year.

These cross-curricular skills are assessed using Levels of Progression (LoP) which focus on skills as well as knowledge.  Pupils are assessed using the LoP at three stages in their school career.  For primary school pupils this is at the end of Key Stage 1 (Year 4) and at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 7).  For post-primary pupils, this is at the end of Key Stage 3 (Year 10).

The LoP provide clear information for teachers, parents and young people themselves on the progress pupils are making in developing their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. The LoP set out, in the form of “can do” statements, the sorts of skills that pupils should be expected to be able to demonstrate if they are to build the communication, numeracy and ICT skills needed to function effectively in life and in the world of work.

Further information on assessment at the end of key stages one and two can be found on the Northern Ireland curriculum website.

Further information on assessment at the end of key stage three can be found on the Northern Ireland curriculum website.

Reporting and transfer of assessment data

A letter issued to all primary schools on 31 May 2013 outlining some of the features of the operation of the common transfer file (CTF) in relation to the transfer of assessment data.

Assessment and progression

The Department of Education has agreed the levels which we expect most children and young people to be able to reach in all three cross-curricular skills of Communication, Using mathematics and Using ICT with a clear expectation that individual pupils should progress at least one level between each key stage.

This allows for progression to be shown and ensures that there is a clear focus not simply on achievement at or above the expected levels but also, importantly, on measuring the progress made by pupils, bearing in mind their different starting points. The expected levels at each key stage are:

Key stage 1 – level 2
Key stage 2 – level 4
Key stage 3 – level 5

Computer-based assessment (CBA)

Separate computer-based assessments (CBA) for literacy and numeracy were introduced by the Department from the 2012/13 school year for primary school pupils in years four to seven inclusive. These assessments are the Northern Ireland Literacy Assessment (NILA) and the Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment (NINA) and are undertaken in the autumn term.

The introduction of these assessments presented significant challenges for some schools. In response the then Education Minister, John O’Dowd, established a four-part review of CBA, along with the associated policy and legislation to determine whether it continued to support the Department’s wider objectives, particularly with reference to raising standards in literacy and numeracy and whether it continued to support and promote best practice in schools.

Reports into the reviews of computer based assessment can be accessed below.

Outcome of reviews

Following the conclusion of the review process the then Education Minister John O’Dowd agreed that CBA assessment would not be specified as mandatory, although NILA and NINA continue to be available for optional use by schools.  Further information can be found on the Minister's statement to the Assembly on 21 May 2013

While schools are not currently required to assess pupils for diagnostic purposes or to update parents with diagnostic assessment results in the autumn, the Department of Education expects schools to continue to carry out diagnostic assessment using an assessment or assessments of their own choice and that the results of this assessment should be used as the basis of engagement with pupils’ parents / guardians.


Back to top