QTU President's comment , 23 March 2016

QTU President
Kevin Bates

First step towards a new senior assessment and tertiary entrance system for 2019

The Queensland Minister for Education, Kate Jones, has made the first formal announcement of changes to the senior assessment and tertiary entrance landscape.

The QTU has been actively engaged in the process of consultation around the Palaszczuk government’s response to the 2014 Masters and Matters review of Queensland’s senior assessment and tertiary entrance system, with QTU Vice-President Sam Pidgeon serving on the taskforce charged with providing advice to the Education Minister on these issues. The bulk of this first decision has positive potential for students, teachers and the education system.

These are the key aspects of the Minister’s announcement.

  • Most senior subjects will have four summative pieces of assessment. This will include three school-based and one external assessment.
  • School-based assessment will not be scaled against the results of the external assessment when calculating subject results.
  • External assessment results will generally contribute 25 per cent towards a student’s subject results in most subjects, and 50 per cent in mathematics and science subjects.
  • Inter-subject scaling will be endorsed to provide weighting to differentiate the complexity of subjects.

The QTU has welcomed the decisions around four summative pieces of assessment (three school-based and once external) and the fact that school-based assessment will not be scaled against the results of external assessment. The QTU has also welcomed the decision to restrict the contribution of external assessment to 25 per cent of a student’s subject result in most subjects.

However, the QTU remains very concerned about the potential impacts of the Minister’s decision to allow 50 per cent of a student’s subject result in mathematics and science to be determined by a single piece of external assessment. These concerns were voiced by the QTU during the consultation conducted by ACER and at the Ministerial Taskforce.

An opportunity exists to minimise these potential impacts by ensuring that the 50 per cent contribution to student subject results reflects the outcomes of two pieces of assessment rather than one, thus reducing the high stakes nature of the assessment. The QTU has also advocated this position throughout the consultation process and will continue to work with stakeholders on such refinements.

QTU policy strongly supports the current system of assessment in secondary schools. In debating the possible developments in this area, State Council and Conference acknowledged the likelihood of the move to external assessment and adopted a position that external assessment should account for no more than 25 per cent of a student’s subject result. Further, in October 2015, State Council determined that regardless of the weighting of external assessment to apply in a subject, no one piece of external assessment should be worth more than a school-based item of assessment.

The move to external assessment at any level is a big change for students in Queensland, where, until the end of 2018, external assessment plays no part in determining a student’s individual subject results. The QTU had been urging a more cautious approach, suggesting moving to 25 per cent initially with a decision on expanding to a greater percentage once the value of the change has been proven. The fact that this position has been adopted for most senior subjects is important.

The decision to go directly to 50 per cent external assessment in mathematics and science risks exposing those students with a heavy mathematics and science subject load to four or five external assessment pieces, all worth 50 per cent of their subject results. This is something that has been heavily criticised interstate and internationally as having a negative impact on student wellbeing, and the QTU has not been alone in raising these concerns in the public response to the Minister’s decision.

The eventual changes to senior assessment and tertiary entrance in Queensland will be complex and made up of a series of decisions, of which external assessment is but the first. The QTU will continue to work with the government to implement these decisions to deliver the best possible system for Queensland students.

Kevin Bates
QTU President
23 March 2016