Assessment and Moderation circles are designed to support staff in local authorities and educational establishments to develop good assessment practice. AM circles provide participants with a foundation for applying the principles of sound assessment to their own practice, including an approach to moderation that conforms to the expectations set out in Building the Curriculum 5: a framework for assessment.

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In the early days, many people thought that Assessment is for Learning and assessment for learning were the same. They even thought that assessment for learning was 'just good learning and teaching'. They didn't see that this could only be true if they had ensured that assessment was an integral part of learning and teaching. Nor did they see that formative assessment was just one part of a coherent system of assessment capable of both supporting and measuring learning.

At this stage in the development of Curriculum for Excellence, staff may need to revisit the principles and practice of AifL and find new, workable ways of reconciling assessment for learning and assessment for accountability.

That's where Assessment and Moderation Circles come in. AM circles are designed to help people develop a new understanding and use of assessment, based on a coherent approach to planning, teaching, learning, assessment and reporting.
AM circles are intended to foster professional learning by doing and reflecting. They can be set up and supported in different ways to suit the needs of those involved. They can be organised within a school, across a group of schools or across an authority.

Supported by a variety of resources and meetings held at appropriate intervals, participants would work through the assessment process. The aim is to build professional confidence and produce documented examples of how teaching and learning can be planned and assessed.
Organised by local authorities

• Staff from primary and secondary sectors with representation decided by each schools in a cluster - these sessions were attended by local authority officers as a means of building capacity at all levels.
• Staff from nursery, primary and secondary who were previously delegated responsibility for assessment*
• Principal teachers and faculty heads in secondary schools, focusing on own curriculum area*
• Nominated staff from secondary schools focusing on numeracy across learning.

Organised by clusters
• Headteacher and one other member of staff from each primary school and three members of staff from secondary English department.
• Senior manager and one other member of staff from each primary school in the cluster – senior manager to buddy with a third member of staff in order to carry out planning and class-based assessment
The purpose of an AM circles is to support staff to be active in their own learning and professional development, to promote investment of time and effort in developing assessment and moderation practice. To help sustain this, AM circles have been devised to provide a cost efficient framework within which staff can develop a way of working that has lasting benefits for their own development and for children's and young people's learning. After an AM circle has run its course, staff should be able to use what they have learned to make future development and planning time more productive.

The cost of running an AM circle will vary depending on circumstances. Assuming that the school or authority is able to provide accommodation and catering, the basic cost of running a circle requiring four days or six half days of my time would be £2000*. A shorter AM circle requiring two days or three half days is likely to cost half of that, or £1000*.

Assuming a circle of 20 participants and excluding any travel and cover costs, this equates to £17 per day per participant - excellent value by any calculation!

* We can negotiate the cost of my travel and accommodation if this is likely to be significant.

You can download an information sheet about Assessment and Curriculum for Excellence here and another about AM circles here. If you'd like to talk about setting up an AM circle, email me with your details or phone 01899 221 779 or 07970 259 521.