OfSTED Curriculum Research Reviews

OfSTED Curriculum Research Reviews

OfSTED has published a series of curriculum research reviews across various subjects, aiming to support and inform those leading subject education in schools. These reviews explore the use of assessment in curriculum planning, advocating for diverse assessment approaches to capture the full spectrum of knowledge pupils need.

Formative and Summative Assessments

A key focus of the reviews is the effective use of formative and summative assessments to gauge knowledge development within subjects. By combining these assessment types, teachers can comprehensively understand pupils’ progress and attitudes towards learning.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are continuous and should be integral to teachers’ professional routines. They provide real-time feedback on pupils’ understanding and offer valuable insights into teaching practices. This ongoing data collection is essential for monitoring individual progress and identifying factors influencing learning. Formative assessments encourage a shared understanding of achievement standards among students, parents, and teachers, ensuring transparency and collaboration in the learning process.

Summative Assessments

Summative assessments, typically conducted at the end of a term or academic year, evaluate whether students have achieved specific knowledge, skills, and understanding. While these assessments often review past learning, they can also set targets for future learning. However, relying solely on annual summative assessments may limit their ability to guide ongoing instructional strategies and improvement opportunities.

Purpose of Programme Assessment Plans

Programme assessment plans are designed to provide structured guidance and support for curriculum planning. They offer practical advice on integrating various assessment methods to ensure a holistic evaluation of pupil progress. The reviews emphasise the importance of formative and summative assessments, outlining their roles and benefits within the educational framework.

Assessment plans are tailored to the unique contexts of individual schools, providing clear strategies for effective implementation. They serve as tools to ensure consistency across different types of assessments, optimise resource use, and design assessments that accurately measure progress towards objective standards. Additionally, these plans establish procedures for administering and processing assessments, including timely feedback for pupils.

Key Components of Effective Assessment Plans

To maximise the effectiveness of assessment plans, the following components should be included:

  1. Consistency: Ensure alignment between various assessment types to maintain standardised evaluation criteria.
  2. Resource Utilisation: Make efficient use of available resources for assessing pupils’ work and performances.
  3. Design Quality: Develop assessments that effectively measure progress towards clearly defined standards.
  4. Administrative Procedures: Establish robust procedures for administering assessments and providing timely feedback to pupils.

Developing an Effective Assessment Plan

An effective assessment plan requires a comprehensive approach that considers the unique needs of each educational setting. Here are some strategies to develop a robust assessment plan:

Understanding the Curriculum

A thorough understanding of the curriculum is essential. Teachers need to identify key learning objectives and outcomes for each subject area. This involves breaking down the curriculum into manageable units and aligning assessments with these units to ensure that all critical aspects are evaluated.

Integration of Formative and Summative Assessments

Effective assessment plans integrate both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments should be embedded in daily teaching practices to monitor progress continuously. Summative assessments should be strategically placed to evaluate cumulative knowledge and skills at significant points in the academic year.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Assessment plans should be flexible and adaptable to cater to the diverse needs of pupils. This includes considering different learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds. Adaptive assessments can provide a more accurate picture of individual progress and help tailor instruction to meet specific needs.

Professional Development

Ongoing professional development is paramount for teachers to implement assessment plans effectively. Training should focus on developing a deep understanding of assessment strategies, data analysis, and how to use assessment results to inform instruction. This ensures teachers are well-equipped to create and use assessments supporting pupil learning.

Involving Stakeholders

Engaging various stakeholders, including parents, pupils, and the wider school community, is key. Transparent communication about assessment goals, methods, and outcomes cultivates a collaborative environment. Parents should know how assessments support their child’s learning and progress.

Examples of Effective Assessment Practices

Case Study: Formative Assessment in Mathematics

In a primary school, teachers implemented daily formative assessments in mathematics. These included quick quizzes, peer assessments, and interactive activities that provided immediate feedback. The results were used to adjust lesson plans and provide targeted support to pupils who struggled with specific concepts. Over time, this approach significantly improved pupils’ mathematical understanding and confidence.

Case Study: Summative Assessment in Science

A secondary school introduced comprehensive summative assessments in science subjects at the end of each term. These assessments included practical experiments, written exams, and project work. The results were analysed to identify trends and gaps in learning. Teachers used this data to plan future lessons and interventions, ensuring pupils received the support needed to master the subject.


OfSTED’s curriculum research reviews offer valuable insights into the strategic use of assessments in educational settings. Schools can create a balanced approach to evaluating and supporting pupil learning by combining formative and summative assessments. Effective programme assessment plans tailored to specific teaching contexts are essential for facilitating a fair and comprehensive assessment system that promotes ongoing educational development. These plans guide teachers in their instructional strategies and ensure that pupils receive the support they need to succeed academically.


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