The National Curriculum Framework for All (NCF), launched in 2012, identifies assessment as an integral part of the teaching and learning process in primary education. Indeed, this document emphasises the importance of valid and reliable assessment methods to support learning, analyse each child’s performance, reflect on practice, plan for further learning of individuals and groups of pupils and allow for consistent recording and reporting on each child’s overall performance.
Formative assessment is the main form of assessment taking place during the primary cycle. Primary school teachers establish each child’s stage of development in different aspects of learning, through a process of assessment for learning. Such assessment information is then used to plan for and direct the next step/s in the child’s learning process. Indeed, in the primary years, everyday interactions between teachers and pupils in oral and written work and other activities together with pupil-pupil interactions provide valuable information about each child’s learning progress.
Teachers of Years 4, 5 and 6 input continuous assessment marks twice a year: once in the second term around February and another time at the end of the school year. The continuous assessment marks are made available online to parents/guardians.
These two continuous assessment entries represent 40% of the final global mark for that school year with the other 60% coming from the end of year summative assessment pupils in these three grades sit for.
No summative assessments are held in the first three years of primary education. From Year 4 onwards formal summative assessments are introduced in conjunction with other forms of assessment. Indeed, in Year 4 and Year 5 pupils sit for centrally-set national annual examinations held at the end of the school year in June. The subjects that are tested in these examinations are Maltese, English Mathematics and Science.
On the other hand, Year 6 pupils sit for the End-of-Primary Benchmark assessment which assesses the level of pupils’ competences in Maltese, English and Mathematics. The Benchmark assessment is open to pupils attending Church and Independent schools as well.
The examinations in Maltese and English assess not only writing and reading skills but also speaking and listening comprehension. All four components each carry 25% of the total mark. In mathematics a mental exercises section is included which carries 20% of the total mark in the annual papers.
Examination marks are based on a 100-point scale. The results of the annual examinations, together with those for the continuous assessment, are made available online and sent to the parents/guardians after each examination session.
As from school year 2014/2015 a procedure for the grouping of pupils based on the standardised mean scores of the aggregated results obtained in Maltese, English and Mathematics has being practised. The global mark is used to group pupils into different bands from which the different classes are then formed in the following school year.
This banding exercise has resulted in classes having a pupil ability range that is more restricted than previously used to be the case in mixed ability classes. This is making it more possible for pupils to learn and progress together as well as making it less challenging for teachers to address the needs of each and every child.
As from June 2011 national End-of-Primary Benchmark Assessments were introduced for pupils in Year 6. This assessment is intended to better inform the pupils, their parents/guardians as well as the schools about the achievements of each child in the different skill areas in Maltese, English and Mathematics.
In the Benchmark assessment different modes of assessments are employed. Indeed, in Maltese and English the reading comprehension and writing skills are assessed using pen and paper methods while the speaking component is conducted by the class teacher by means of a ten-minute oral interview. On the other hand, listening skills are assessed by means of contextual real-life played out in class. Each of these four components carries 25% of the total mark.
In the case of mathematics, a standardised mental test is carried out to complement the assessment of mathematical skills in written form. The pupils’ performance in the Benchmark assessment is reported by means of marks obtained in each of the separate components. The mental test carries 20% of the total mark while the written paper carries the remaining 80% of the marks.
The Educational Assessment Unit within the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes compiles and disseminates a detailed report after each Benchmark session.
In January 2009 the DQSE launched the National Policy and Strategy for the Attainment of Core Competences in Primary Education. This policy document proposes core competences checklists for Maltese and English literacy, eLiteracy and numeracy at Years 1, 2 and 3 by means of which teachers will be able to identify learners who require special assistance.
The policy aims to prevent a core competences attainment deficit through early identification, support, integration and intervention in early primary years. The strategy’s four priorities are to be implemented not only through teacher-led actions at school, but also through actions within the community. Thus, each of the priorities will have a school-based and community-based component which together will form a framework for the action plan.
Progression of Pupils
In primary schools most pupils are usually promoted from one year to another but in some exceptional instances pupils can repeat the school year if this is deemed beneficial to them and after consultation with the parents, the class teacher and any other education professionals who may have followed or assisted the child during the school year. There are no official criteria which determine when a pupil is to retain a grade
All pupils move from the primary to the secondary cycle with no formal certification at the end of primary education. The results obtained by pupils in the End-of-Primary Benchmark are conveyed to the secondary school to inform the school administration of the students’ abilities and any areas of concern that would need to be addressed in the secondary cycle.