Education Endowment Foundation:Assess for Success

Assess for Success

Manchester College
Project info

Independent Evaluator

Behavioural Insights Team logo
Behavioural Insights Team
Piloting a new approach to assessing GCSE resitters’ English skills and supporting teachers to plan appropriate teaching.
Pupils: 4229 Schools: 6 Grant: £155,000
Key Stage: 5 Duration: 1 year(s) 7 month(s) Type of Trial: Pilot Study
Completed December 2019

Assess for Success is a programme created by Manchester College that aims to improve the assessment of learners resitting GCSE English. Teachers were provided with a paper-based diagnostic assessment to establish students’ strengths and weaknesses in key English skills; progress assessments for teachers to monitor student development over the year; a skills profile sheet that describes the eight key English skills; and two learner tracking tools, that allowed students to track their own progress.

These resources were supported by a programme of CPD, including 4 days of training and practice sharing, peer mentoring from staff at Manchester College, and a community of practice’ within each participating college which encouraged teachers to reflect on their current practice and review progress

Since 2014, students without a good pass in English and Maths GCSE (a 4’ or higher under the new GCSE grading system) must continue to study these subjects until they are 18, or secure a qualification in them. This pilot was funded by the EEF as part of a joint initiative with J.P. Morgan to explore how to improve outcomes for disadvantaged 16- to 18-year-old students who are required to re-sit these exams.

The pilot found that teachers and coordinators considered the Diagnostic Assessment as used in the programme to be an improvement on the assessment they had previously been using. However, the resources for teachers required improvements and additions, and both teachers and students had concerns that the lack of alignment between the assessment and the GCSE exam led to false expectations. Overall, the pilot found some evidence of promise, but recommended significant development and further piloting before the programme would be ready for a further trial.

The EEF currently has no plans for a further trial of Assess for Success’ but will continue to consider other projects which aim to improve English and Maths outcomes for students re-sitting their GCSE exams.


Does it appear that this intervention could improve the English GCSE attainment of learners in FE colleges?


There were reports from teachers and students that AfS had a positive effect on students’ sense of achievement, and that this led to an increase in self-confidence (although this was partly attributed to the ease of the AfS assessments). Some teachers felt more able to describe their individual students development priorities, however both teachers and students had concerns that the lack of alignment between the two assessments led to false expectations about the difficulty of the GCSE exam.

Can the intervention be delivered in a way that is effective for FE Colleges and FE English Teachers?


The core AfS assessments were used in the majority of settings, but barriers were experienced in engaging with other resources like the Moodle platform. Resources for teachers require improvements and additions, and the training and CPD was perceived as useful in parts but requires substantial design work.

Is the intervention ready to be evaluated in a trial?


Substantial improvements to the intervention and its management are required. The inconsistencies in evidence of promise and the issues raised in relation to feasibility suggest that significant development and piloting is advisable before the intervention is reassessed for readiness for trial.