Judging the success of education

The Vision: The success of students, teachers and education systems is judged through broadly based assessment and accountability measures.

"The effect of National Curriculum reform (certainly in England) has seen assessment of learning prioritised over assessment for learning. A better balance between the two is required, with multiple measures of student and school/college performance to relieve the pressure of high-stakes assessment and to help ensure reliable and valid data."

A focus on ‘teaching to the test’ results in a narrow curriculum that impoverishes young people’s breadth and balance of learning.

Schools are under pressure to achieve the highest possible rankings in published league tables. This leads to teachers ‘drilling’ their students in the essential subject content required for a pass.

There should be a reduced focus from governments and inspectorates on high stakes accountability measures based on testing. Instead there should be more coherent methods to assess performance of students. 

Teachers should have an increased role in assessing student achievement in public qualifications. The health of the school and college systems should be judged through a wider set of measures.


  • Entrust teachers with increased responsibility for assessing students’ achievements
  • Place practical work and problem-solving at the heart of good assessment of science and mathematics
  • Use a wider set of measures than examination performance to make more informed judgements about the quality of a school or college
  • Measure the quality of science and mathematics provision in schools and colleges through specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related indicators, such as tracking the number and diversity of students taking STEM qualifications to 16 and post-16
  • Require all school and college governing bodies to have at least one member with STEM subject expertise
  • Increase the emphasis in school and college inspections on identifying and sharing good practice

Key developments since 2014

  • GCSE and A-level students are required to undertake a minimum number of practicals as part of their course. A-level science pupils are awarded a practical endorsement alongside their grade
  • Local Authorities are developing school-led improvement systems for collaboration and shared accountability
  • Regional schools commissioners intervene in underperforming schools