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The education system is not the same as before the pandemic.  We need policies that address the current situation if we are to improve standards. Professor Jo-Anne Baird (Director of the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment) speaks to The Today programme.

Listen here:

Jamie Stiff and colleagues have looked at the 221 academic publications on the Progress in International Reading Study, the world’s largest reading assessment.  They found that:

  • Most articles used PIRLS data for secondary data analysis.
  • Research related to attainment gaps has increased since 2015.
  • 20% of articles were critiques of PIRLS constructs and/or procedures.
  • PIRLS remains underutilised for researching reading literacy.

The full article can be found here:

Stiff, J., Lenkeit, J., Hopfenbeck, T.N., Kayton, H. and McGrane, J.A. (2023) Research engagement in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study: A systematic review. Educational Research Review, 40.


Strengthening the design and implementation of the standardised student assessment reform of the Flemish Community of Belgium

The Flemish Community of Belgium has been a stronger performer on international tests, however, performance has been deteriorating and more students are failing to reach basic proficiency levels than before. In response, a series of reforms have been initiated including the introduction of standardised tests, initially in Dutch and mathematics, to evaluate student, school and national performance. Michelle Meadows worked with Marco Kools, Inés Sanguino Martínez and Claire Shrewbridge from the OECD Implementing Education Policies team and Professor Inge de Wolf from Maastricht University to support the successful design and implementation of the tests.

The report presents the analysis, key findings and recommendations including the need to clarify the main purpose of the tests. As the current policy gives equal weight to the use of the data at system, school, classroom and student level, the tests may not meet all the expectations for their intended use. For example, the design decisions taken so far best support system level monitoring of student performance rather than the use of test data by teachers to improve their pedagogical practice.


The Review, led by Professor Louise Hayward recommended

  • Scottish Diploma of Achievement comprising Programmes of Learning, Project Learning and the Personal Pathway.
  • Removal of external examinations in fourth year
  • A national strategy for standards
  • A cross-sector Commission on Artificial Intelligence
  • Cultural change processes, including professional development for teachers

Professors Jo-Anne Baird and Gordon Stobart were members of the Independent Review Group and led the Qualifications Community Consultation Group, composed of:

Dr Lena Gray (Qualifications and Assessment Consultant/Researcher) • Emeritus Professor Jenny Ozga (University of Oxford, Department of Education) • Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Southern Cross University, Education) • Emeritus Professor Dylan William (University of London, Assessment) • Professor Ewart Keep (University of Oxford, Education, Training and Skills) • Professor Anne Looney (Dublin City University, Executive Dean of the Institute of Education)

Some news coverage and reactions:

Hayward Review: Expert says blueprint to scrap S4 exams in Scotland will benefit pupils, teachers and Scottish society.  The Scotsman

7 key messages as Hayward report on assessment unveiled, TES magazine

Hayward Review: Considering the future of qualifications and assessment. FE News

NASUWT comments on Hayward Review



What can the Covid exam crisis teach us about policy making?

Based upon the article, Knowledge, expertise and policy in the examinations crisis in England


With a different set of purposes, GCSEs could  be designed differently.

30 March 2023

Witness(es): Dr Michelle Meadows, Associate Professor of Educational Assessment, Department for Education, University of Oxford; Gavin Busuttil-Reynaud, Director of Operations, AlphaPlus; Sharon Hague, Senior Vice-President, Pearson School Qualifications; Tim Oates CBE, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

View the full session here:


Dr Michelle Meadows was second-in-command at Ofqual during the 2020 exams fiasco, a grading disaster that will echo in schools for years to come. She reveals to Samantha Booth what happened behind closed doors.

Dr Michelle Meadows, former Ofqual deputy chief regulator


Alumni of the Masters in Educational Assessment, Lorena Garelli and Kevin Mason presenting their dissertation research.

Trinity’s School of Education and the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, hosted AEA-Europe’s Annual Conference on 9-12 November in Dublin, Ireland.

Over 350 attendees from 37 countries reflected on the conference’s theme – “New Visions for Assessment in Uncertain Times.” This diverse range of attendees included over 15 folks affiliated with OUCEA. Throughout the conference, attendees explored possible directions for assessment policy and practice in schools, higher education, and vocational/workplace settings over the coming years. Much of the reflection centered on the instability of the recent past – the pandemic, war in Ukraine, and economic challenges globally have created a sense of uncertainty in all spheres of life. As a result, attendees took stock and reimagined assessment in a world where the certainties of the past decades have given way to a more uncertain environment.

Keynote speeches addressed such diverse topics as “Assessing learning in schools – Reflections on lessons and challenges in the Irish context,” “Assessment research: listening to students, looking at consequences,” and “Assessment research: listening to students, looking at consequences.”

In addition to the keynotes, the conference hosted panel and poster presentation opportunities. Many members and associates of the OUCEA shared their research. For example:

Honorary Norham Fellow

  • Lena Gray – presented on assessment, policymakers, and communicative spaces – striving for impact at the research–policy interface

Honorary Research Associate

  • Yasmine El Masri – an OUCEA Research Associate – presented on Evaluating sources of differential item functioning in high-stakes assessments in England


  • Samantha-Kaye Johnston – an OUCEA Research Officer – presented on Assessing creativity among primary school children through the snapshot method – an innovative approach in times of uncertainty.

Current doctoral students

  • Louise Badham – a current D.Phil Student – presented on Exploring standards across assessments in different languages using comparative judgment.
  • Zhanxin Hao –  presented on The effects of using testing and restudy as test preparation strategies on educational tests
  • Jane Ho  – presented on Validation of large-scale high-stakes tests for college admissions decisions

MSc in Educational Assessment graduates and students

  • Kevin Mason – presented on Assessment of Art and Design Courses using Comparative Judgment in Mexico and England
  • Lorena Garelli – presented on Assessment of Art and Design Courses using Comparative Judgment in Mexico and England
  • Joanne Malone – presented on Irish primary school teachers’ mindset and approaches to classroom assessment
  • Merlin Walters – presented on The comparability of grading standards in technical qualifications in England: how can we facilitate it in a post-pandemic world?

As you can see from the wide-ranging topics covered, OUCEA is engaging in wide-ranging research. The team looks forward to presenting more of our work at AEA-Europe’s 2023 conference in Malta.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority have today released reports on stakeholders’ views of national assessments in Scotland, four of which were conducted in conjunction with the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment and Glasgow University.

Professor Jo-Anne Baird at the University of Oxford and one of the co-authors of the research, said: “Public confidence in national qualifications is incredibly important for learners.

“Our findings show that people want a qualification system that fits modern Scottish society – one that is learner-focused, with choice, flexibility, and the capacity to adapt to the needs of learners with different skills and in a range of contexts.”

The research has been published on SQA’s website to support discussion around the future of assessment in Scotland.

See the article on our findings in the TES magazine.