Indeed it would be no exaggeration to say that the 1980s have been the era of assessment-led education reform. (Hargreaves, 1989, p. 99)
Although assessment had often been the focus of educational debate and reform, for example, the 11+ examination, and the introduction of CSE, I think it is fair to say that assessment debate and reform had never been tackled on so many fronts, so continuously, so pervasively and so far reaching as those during the 1980s. During this period there had been three main initiatives and reform, the GCSE, Records Of Achievement (ROA) and the National Curriculum. There had been a long build-up to the amalgamation of the GCE and CSE to form the GCSE, and with it came more fundamental change from norm referencing to criterion referencing which has changed teachers' thinking on testing in other situations and for all ages. At approximately the same time, Government pilot schemes of ROA were taking place because of the dissatisfaction with examination results and certificates, along with the oft discredited and non-compulsory school reports, as the only means of showing what had been achieved at school. But, of course, ROA does not just target the fifth year leaving pupil in that year. In future it will target the pupils' achievement throughout the school years. After an 'on-off' situation, recording and reporting to parents finally became part of Government policy.
The most far reaching of all is, of course, the National Curriculum with its assessments at the end of four key stages (ages 7, 11, 14 and 16). There have been other initiatives too, such as CPVE and TVEI with their links to employment, modularization of courses with certification by examination groups and LEAs, and discussion on the reform of sixth form and advanced level courses. Post-16 and advanced level reform is likely to be the most controversial and heated debate of the early 1990s. However, the most contentious issues and heated debate in the pre-16 school years concern the assessments in the National Curriculum and these have occurred because of management problems and because of conflicting purposes and interests. These are issues which affect physical education no less than other subjects so will be themes which will be tackled in this book.