GTCE chief executive calls for new approach to testing.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton Carol Adams, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), set out her thinking on assessment and testing. The implications of such an approach for CPD are clear, as are the discrepancies between the GTCE’s approach and that of the government.

Carol Adams called for an approach to exams and testing that will help teachers prepare pupils for life. She argued that the present system of assessment, with its focus on external tests and ranking, does not support the kind of teaching and learning that will enable all pupils to reach their full potential.

Exams and tests only measure what can be recalled in isolation, for a limited period of time, under pressure. This is only a small part of learning and not the skill that we use most of the time working in the real world. When today’s measurements are long-forgotten, our young people will be living with the consequences of a system that fails to realise the potential of too many of them.’

For her the challenge for teaching is to meet the needs of all learners, from the high flier to the low attainer, focusing not on what material has been ‘covered’ or taught, but what has been learned. She argues that the current system discourages effective learning that would best tackle persistent underachievement.

She highlighted recent research on the impact testing has on pupils’ motivation and learning, which found that since testing became linked to school targets and league tables, low-achieving pupils had lower self-esteem than before. It found that the external publication of results, which made the tests ‘higher stakes’ for schools and teachers, discouraged rather than encouraged these pupils to try to improve.

The GTCE calls for assessment that supports broad learning. ‘This type of assessment is a vital tool for the teacher, informative for parents and of huge value to pupils in assisting their progress. However, at the moment, it is overshadowed by the giant monolith of targets, tests and tables. Teachers are encouraged to use both forms of assessment, but when public reputation, pupil numbers and funding are at stake, it is hardly surprising that the one predominates.’

The implication of what Carol Adams is saying for CPD is that the focus of professional development will become less on aiming at better examination results and much more about the complete child.

The full text of Carol Adams’s speech can be found at

Training and Development Agency for Schools is launched

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), has now taken over the work of the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) with extra responsibilities to improve training and development for the entire school workforce.

Ralph Tabberer, the chief executive of the TDA, said: ‘The TDA will work with existing and new partner organisations to help all schools improve the training and development opportunities their staff need to benefit pupils directly. We look forward to the challenge.’

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said: ‘The TDA, as part of its new expanded remit, will work closely with schools to ensure that staff have the continuing professional development they need to deliver improvements in teaching and learning.’

Carol Adams, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for England, said: ‘The brief of the new Training and Development Agency for Schools is a most welcome sign of the strategic importance now placed on professional development by government. The GTC(E) believes that it is vitally important for teachers and all school staff to have access to career-long high quality learning and development in order to maximise their potential to help pupils learn and achieve. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the TDA in its focus on professional development and learning to the benefit of pupils.’

The TDA was established under the Education Act 2005. Its purpose is to raise children’s standards of achievement and promote their wellbeing by improving the training and development of the whole school workforce.

It will work with the GTCE, the National College for School Leadership, local authorities, trades unions and other organisations representing all staff working with children and young people.

As regards teacher training, its declared aim is to build on the success of the TTA over the past five years in increasing the number of trainee teachers and improving the quality of their training.

Since 1 April the TDA has encompassed the work of the National Remodelling Team (NRT), which has been leading reforms in schools and teaching, and the way children learn. The NRT’s experience and systems are being placed at the heart of the way TDA will work in the future. Its role includes introducing guaranteed professional time for planning, preparation and assessment within schools sessions.

Sir Brian Follett, former vice-chancellor of Warwick University, was appointed chair of the TTA in June 2003 and will continue as chair of the TDA. Ralph Tabberer was appointed chief executive of the TTA in February 2000. His contract has been extended a further five years to lead the TDA.

CPD Update has often referred to the confused CPD world inherited by the TDA. What will be critical is the manner in which the TDA harnesses the experience and expertise of all stakeholders and, nevertheless, the extent to which it allows for them to maintain a rich diversity of approach.