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Assessment in Religious Education

Assessment has always been an essential element in what is generally agreed to be good educational practice. In the daily life of the school or college this means being involved in a continuous process of identifying the development of each pupil’s learning and understanding by using evidence from a variety of sources.

Assessment should be understood in this broad sense and should not be confined to notions of measurement and testing although these may, from time to time, be appropriate particularly in relation to examinations. Assessment should be manageable, understandable to all, and able to provide information about pupils’ progress and inform future planning.

There are various aspects of assessment and their uses will depend on the purposes of assessment. In general terms, the following facets are especially relevant to RE:

Formative Assessment

which provides information on a pupil’s current level of understanding, knowledge and skills so that teachers can plan further stages in learning, with shared purposes and goals. The emphasis here is on helping pupils to make sense of what they are learning and on the reinforcement of what has been learnt by constructive feedback. This should also enable the identification of a pupil’s specific learning problems and needs.

Summative Assessment

which provides overall evidence and information on the achievements of each pupil in terms of what he or she knows, understands, and can do on the completion of a topic or module.  Assessment is a statutory requirement of the Agreed Syllabus and is important in tracking the learning route of all students and should be based on the two main aims of this agreed syllabus Knowledge and Understanding (A) and Skills and Attitudes (B).

Unlike national curriculum subjects Religious Education has never had government agreed levels and the levels constructed have been generated within the RE community to maintain parity with other subjects. The current situation is that there is no national requirement to  use levels to report on student progress and schools have been given autonomy to create their own internal systems of assessment. Life without levels provides an opportunity for RE to move to more formative and worthwhile assessment. In this agreed syllabus under the heading, ‘Planning and Assessment’ exemplar expectations have been suggested. The headings of ‘emerging’, ‘secure’, and ‘exceeding’ have been used to indicate three stages of development and these can be used to construct meaningful assessment criteria.

The NCFRE includes this statement: ‘By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.’ This statement is also included in the programmes of study for each subject of the national curriculum. There is a clear expectation that pupils’ achievements will continue to be assessed

by teachers using criteria arising from the programmes of study. The RE Council notes that the DfE expects schools to have a curriculum and assessment  framework that meets a set of core principles57 and commends this advice to syllabus makers and RE teachers as they plan particular ways of describing achievement in RE in those schools for which they have responsibility.

The core principles are that assessment should:

  1. set out steps so that pupils reach or exceed the end of key stage expectations ;
  2. enable teachers to measure whether pupils are on track to meet end of key stage expectations;
  3. enable teachers to pinpoint the aspects of the curriculum in which pupils are falling behind, and recognise exceptional performance;
  4. support teachers’ planning for all pupils;
  5. enable the teacher to report regularly to parents