PROFESSOR of Education John Hattie believes in a ‘Growth Mindset’ – positive relationships in the classroom.

Teachers monitoring student progress, providing feedback, assessing how well learning is applied – the core is a strong relationship. Post-pandemic, young people need more one-to-one interactions, more support, more understanding of their point of view. And the Education Endowment Foundation has identified that learning loss is greater in pupils from less advantaged backgrounds.

This isn’t just a problem down the line, when these youngsters seek qualifications, jobs, further education. There is a crisis in our schools right now: pupils are manifesting aggressive and or anxious behaviour; support services aren’t coping; many teachers are quitting. Just when we need more staff in classrooms.

I believe a solution exists in new assessment practices. It means smaller class sizes and greater allocation of resources. But we must use the opportunity of the Review of Scotland’s Educational Qualifications and Assessment, which reports in 2023.

Because we need innovation in assessment methods – a move away from traditional, high-stakes exams, towards a wider repertoire involving teacher agency, and high-quality classroom interaction. Working within robust progression frameworks, teachers can track pupils’ in-depth, long-term and secure mastery of concepts, as demonstrated in project and portfolio work, oral presentations, practicals, quizzes, diagnostic questioning, online exercises, and self-review.

At present these methodologies are treated as trifles for the S1-3 Broad General Phase, and certainly not rigorous enough for the senior phase. The critical 2021 OECD report on our system urged that coursework assessment should have far higher status. The anxiety generated by the final-exam, high-stakes assessment is simply unacceptable.

But, in a Pavlovian response to the OECD, the Scottish education establishment has been producing a smokescreen of reports – Muir, Stobart, and the imminent Hayward. Intelligent men and women have laboured with integrity and empathy in these endeavours.

But can we have confidence that, post-reform, the same people or in commentator James McEnaney’s words, “the same type of people” will not still be running the show? Will it be a mere “rebranding exercise”? Will it “simply reprint existing organisations and structures” as the Scotland Future Forum fears?

At this important moment, we need to view the curriculum and assessment as suggested by Stirling University’s Mark Priestley and Walter Humes: “a set of social practices through which education is planned, designed, developed and enacted.” Curriculum and assessment should be all about creating opportunities for learners to demonstrate key skills, capacity for learning, resilience, ability to collaborate. In short, opportunities not merely to prove they are successful learners, but also confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors.

As Mark Hardman, of UCL, exhorts teachers can make a change, can innovate. If we need better data on student progress, as the OECD concluded, then resourcing schools and teachers to plan, assess and moderate is an answer. Quod est demonstrandum: more quality interaction, more attention paid to young people’s views, and certainly more of a Growth Mindset.

This is the nettle our review must grasp.

Dr Michael Gregson is a teacher of English at Inverness Royal Academy