Press release

National curriculum assessment at a turning point: successes, failures and alternatives

8 June 2009

At a time of dramatic changes in national testing, an authoritative and thought provoking Special Issue reviews the successes and failures of national curriculum assessment (NCA) over the last fifteen years and possible replacements for the current system.

NFER’s Chris Whetton, editor of National Curriculum Assessment in England: how well has it worked? Perspectives from the UK, Europe and beyond, chose the subject ‘because it matters….a critical evaluation of something that has such an influence on generations of a nation’s children is vital, giving lessons for the future and for other countries and their own reforms.’

Articles in this special issue of Educational Research include:

The special issue includes papers from assessment specialists in other countries, which show that concerns in England are neither unique nor special. The five authors reflect a range of attitudes to assessment; Sweden’s system is largely based on teacher assessment, in Italy there’s a lack of interest in formal testing, and in America the individual states have accountability systems of greater complexity and with more targets than we see in England.

Chris Whetton’s conclusion is that improvement isn’t simple: ‘To develop a national assessment system which is fair to all in a diverse society, provides valid information with great accuracy, supports teaching and learning, raises levels of attainment for children of all backgrounds, provides accountability measures for society, is economically viable, and is accepted by all involved in education, is not just difficult, it is impossible. But that does not mean that the attempt is a vain effort.’

National Curriculum Assessment in England: how well has it worked? Perspectives from the UK, Europe and beyond is published by Routledge, a part of the Taylor and Francis Group.

Further information on the special issue

Educational Research at Routledge: home page | special issue



For more information or for a review copy please contact Gail Goodwin, NFER Media and Communications Manager, on 01753 637159,

Notes to editors

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is the UK’s largest independent educational research organisation. NFER’s mission is to contribute to improving education, training and children’s services by undertaking research, evaluation and assessment, and communicating the results effectively.

For more information visit