The purpose of this chapter is to examine current assessment practices, their strengths and weaknesses, and to suggest ways in which such methods may be used to enhance equal opportunities in relation to gender, race, and social class.
The Sex Discrimination Acts, 1975, 1986, makes it unlawful to discriminate directly, or indirectly, on grounds of sex or marital status, or to apply requirements or conditions which have a disproportionately disadvantageous effect on people of a particular sex or marital status where these cannot be justified. The Race Relations Act, 1976 makes it unlawful to discriminate directly, or indirectly, on grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, and to apply requirements or conditions which have a disproportionately disadvantageous effect on people of a particular racial group, and which cannot be justified on non-racial grounds. Each act makes it unlawful to use discriminatory employment advertising and to apply pressure to discriminate or to aid discrimination by another person.
The 1960s and early 1970s witnessed increasing resistance to assessment in educational guidance and the counselling professions. Such views are still held quite strongly in some circles, especially as assessment of personal and social attributes are complex and often highly subjective.
Changes in the labour market and the emphasis on skills training have led to a renewed interest in assessment techniques for recruitment and selection by employers and training agents. The most recent developments in the National Curriculum and the associated requirements for assessment and testing at regular intervals leave us in no doubt that assessment is here to stay for the foreseeable future. How, then, do practitioners deal with the conflicting demands of assessment methods and the needs of those subjected to them? Clearly the issue is a complex one and no simple solutions are