Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Assessment has been at center stage of educational reform in England and Wales in the past 15 years. This article argues that official educational assessment policy is essentially indifferent to the technical, pedagogic, and epistemological issues related to different forms of assessment. Policymakers are primarily concerned with “delivering” educational success in terms of reportable rising levels of attainment. The first part of this article provides a contextualized account of the use of assessment as an educational policy instrument and some of the consequences for pedagogy and curriculum provision. Our focal point here is on the assessment of English within the National Curriculum. The second section of the article amplifies our central argument—that policy is uninterested in the technical and educational issues involved in assessment—by offering a detailed critique of the limited and impoverished nature of the infrastructure and support available for teachers to carry out teacher assessment, with particular reference to the assessment of English for pupils whose first/home language is a language other than English. Research data are used to support our observations and arguments. We suggest that there is an urgent need to clarify the distinctions between summative and formative assessment, between the assessment of English as a first language and English as an Additional Language, and between a grammar-based view of English and a cross-curriculum discourse and communication-oriented view of English.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Language Assessment Quarterly