General Computer Based Assessment (CBA) Queries

What is the purpose of Computer Based Assessment?

CBA is part of the Department of Education’s wider strategy to raise outcomes in literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland. The CBAs assess the skills and understanding in literacy and numeracy of pupils in Years 4-7. Both assessments have been designed specifically to align with the relevant statutory minimum content of the Northern Ireland Curriculum.

The fact that the data from these assessments are not collected centrally strongly emphasises the formative nature of the assessments. In March 2014 the Minister for Education outlined:

"Its purpose is to help teachers improve outcomes for children in literacy and numeracy – and to provide information to parents on how they can support their children's learning in these critical areas. The practice of having this sort of universal, formative assessment in primary school, mapped to our own curriculum and delivered at the start of the academic year, is noted with approval by the OECD."

How can teachers use the CBA outcomes to support the teaching and learning in the classroom?

The OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment in Education has noted that within CBA, the intention is to provide teachers with reliable, formative tools to assess their pupils’ progress and learning needs. The tests are intended for diagnostic purposes and the assessment data is primarily used for:

  • Assessing pupil progress and identifying their learning needs
  • Supporting self-evaluation and target-setting
  • Helping teachers shape their teaching to address the learning needs of their pupils
  • Providing information for parents on their children’s strengths and weaknesses within literacy and numeracy

Additionally outcomes can be used for benchmarking performance within the school and across Northern Ireland.

Are schools required to do CBA?

CBA is not specified for mandatory use during autumn term in 2016. An ongoing review of the Computer-Based Assessments and related policy has resulted in a change of policy, and that these became voluntary in 2013/14.

In an email to schools on 3 March 2016, the Assessment and Qualifications Team (DENI) noted that:

  • Since the introduction of NILA and NINA assessments in 2012, CCEA has worked with both assessment providers to improve both CBAs to best meet school needs.
  • Participant schools reported increasing confidence in the educational value of the assessments, with all schools that attended feedback sessions (n=86) stating that they plan to use them again, if available.
  • All primary schools are now invited to register their interest in participating in a further voluntary CBA programme in autumn 2016 and the Minister would like to encourage as many schools as possible to consider taking part.

What improvements have been made to the CBAs since their introduction in 2012?

Substantial improvements have been made to the assessments since autumn 2012. Developments to CBA reporting include:

  • Improved reporting functions and simplified reports;
  • Year Group Report;
  • Improved Parent Report;
  • SS and AROs available within 48 hours;
  • Improved filtering of reports; and
  • Skills Focus Report which is intended to make it easier for teachers to see how each pupil performed in the different areas of the curriculum and to identify both the pupil’s strengths and where they may need support. It may also aid communication with parents and inform how learning might be supported at home.

In addition to technical improvements, other developments (in response to feedback) included:

  • SEN entry point which provides enhanced accessibility for pupils with special educational needs;
  • A special entry point for Hearing Impaired Pupils in NILA;
  • Easier pupil logins;
  • Improved Irish Medium selection;
  • Modified pupil checklist;
  • Clearer practice assessment indicators and improved question delivery;
  • Review of NINA techniques: A review of the techniques that schools reported as being difficult for pupils e.g. techniques requiring Ctrl or Shift;
  • Revision of NINA practice area based on the review of techniques e.g. the vertical calculation technique has been added to the NINA practice area;
  • Improved NINA demo;
  • Question Item Analysis;
  • NILA and NINA administrator’s access/permissions aligned;
  • Improved assessment monitoring;
  • Question number added to the bottom of the screen in NILA assessment;
  • Software adapted to operate on the C2k transformed network; and
  • Pre Flight Check

How long will DE continue to provide CBA (NINA and NILA) to schools?

The initial contract with the CBA suppliers (Tribal Education Ltd and Rising Stars UK Ltd) was for a 3 year period with an option to extend for a further two one year periods. The initial 3 year period was completed in August 2015 and the contract is now in its second ‘one-year extension’ to August 2017.

Is it possible to use NILA and NINA with other year groups outside years 4-7?

CBA Assessments can only be completed with years 4-7.

How many schools have completed CBA since 2012?

CCEA worked in partnership with 184 schools piloting CBA for literacy and numeracy in 2013, 194 schools in 2014 and 233 in 2015. The evaluation outcomes have been used to inform future policy and practice.

317 schools have volunteered to complete CBA in 2016.

Can any school complete CBA during autumn 2016?

In March 2016 all primary schools were invited by the Minister of Education to register for the CBA 2016 programme.

Do schools have to offer a parent meeting during the first term?

In an email to schools on April 10, 2014, the Assessment and Qualifications Team (DENI) noted that:

  • the Department expects schools to continue to carry out diagnostic assessment using an assessment, or assessments, of their choice; and
  • the results of this assessment should be used as the basis for engagement with the pupil’s parent/guardian.

Since 2013 DE has not prescribed specifically when the parent meeting should be offered.