Thursday, 4 October 2012

Statement on technical issues with school computer based assessments

Education Minister, John O’Dowd has responded to concerns raised by some schools in relation to technical issues with the new computer based assessment system.

A number of primary schools have contacted CCEA to advise that their pupils were experiencing difficulties when completing computer based assessments in literacy and numeracy.  Based on the information provided to date the difficulties are related to system and network issues and not to any problems with the assessment programs themselves. 

The Minister said: “I am aware that a number of schools are experiencing technical difficulties when accessing the new statutory computer-based assessments.  I am obviously concerned at the impact this may have on teachers and, more importantly, on pupils and have asked those involved to make every effort to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

“It is important to note that these problems were not encountered during the significant period of testing prior to their introduction and they are not affecting every school.  Nonetheless, the intermittent nature of the problem makes it difficult to resolve and CCEA and C2K have been working with the service provider, Northgate, to try to establish the causes. I have asked them to report back to me on this issue as quickly as possible.”

The Minister continued: “The new assessments have been designed specifically for our local context and are an important element of our drive to raise standards in literacy and numeracy. They are diagnostic in nature, intended to assist the work of teachers and the understanding and engagement of parents and pupils.

“Schools have been advised that if the current difficulties in operating the new assessment is interfering with this purpose, or is causing distress to pupils, they should stop the assessments until they are advised that the issues have been addressed.  Given the current circumstances, I believe it would be unreasonable to expect those schools who are encountering such difficulties to have conducted assessments and reported outcomes to parents by the end of the autumn term. My Department will be writing to schools to provide them with further guidance on this issue.” 

In conclusion the Minister said: “I note that many schools have already conducted the assessments successfully and have made arrangements to report to parents and set up meetings this term. Indeed, given the value of autumn term parental meetings, I hope that the majority of schools will be in a position to conduct assessments and report as normal.
Finally, I want to reassure those schools affected by the technical problems that every effort is being made to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

Notes to editors:

For media queries please contact the Department of Education Press Office on 028 9127 9207. Outside office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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