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Practising Certificates

Specialist teachers

must hold a current practising certificate in assessing specific learning difficulties issued by their relevant professional association, for example, PATOSS (the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties), Dyslexia Action or the British Dyslexia Association.


must be registered with the Health Professions Council [open since 2009 and mandatory from July 2012]. Before HPC July 2012 psychologists were required to hold a current practising certificate issued by their relevant professional association, for example, the British Psychological Association. [The British Psychological Society has now ceased issuing practising certificates.]  See news item on this site: http://www.sasc.org.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=33

A Practising Certificate is one which recognises not only professional achievement but also a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD). Practising Certificates have to be renewed on a regular basis. Therefore those wishing to hold or renew a Practising Certificate will be required to demonstrate this commitment by showing how they have regularly updated their professional skills and competence through study, professional discussion, training and practice. The Practising Certificate for Specialist Teachers should not be confused with the Practising Certificate issued by the British Psychological Society to Chartered Psychologists or Health Professions Council Registration..

In recent years the demand for diagnostic assessments of specific learning difficulties has grown considerably. Assessments are increasingly needed for specific purposes such as determining the right to Access Arrangements in examinations and the eligibility for the Disabled Student Allowances. As the demand for assessments has grown, more professionals with qualifications in assessment of specific learning difficulties either as psychologists or as specialist teachers have become involved in this field. As a result of this, pressure for effective monitoring of standards in assessment has grown – both from those bodies such as the DfES or the Joint Council who use assessment reports to make important decisions and from within the professions themselves.

The DfES was responsible for setting up a working group to consider the whole question of assessments for eligibility for the Disabled Student Allowances and as many specialist teachers and psychologists are aware this working group has produced useful guidance, for example, on procedures, the choice of tests and the format of assessment reports for this particular purpose. In addition the working group recognised and emphasised in its report the need for some means of monitoring the quality of assessments, not on a case-by-case basis, but by ensuring that assessments were carried out by people who possessed requisite knowledge and skills to do the job to the highest professional standards. The quality of an assessment and subsequent report depends primarily on the knowledge and skills of the assessor rather than the selection of tests used. It is from this set of circumstances that the impetus has come for a Practising Certificate in Assessment which:

  • encourages continuing professional development in the skills of assessment
  • recognises and awards these skills
  • is valid for a set period of time only and then will need to be renewed

Assessing Assessors

– A Guide for consistency across issuing bodies who evaluate Assessment Practising Certificates renewal applications


The APC renewal process offers an opportunity both for individual professional development through feedback on assessment reports and for issuing bodies to support the overall aim of the APC scheme to improve assessment practice standards. These criteria also apply where a report is required in the initial application for an Assessment Practising Certificate.

In order to bring practice up to date, following a review and recommendations of assessor bodies, SASC has updated the guidance on our report proforma and the criteria for reviewing assessor reports. Revised guidance on both these areas [issued 19 October 2015] is downloadable from the SASC website. 


Renewal of an APC depends upon successful completion of a CPD log and production of an effective assessment report. Defining "effective” can be problematic and current guidance is very broad.  We believe it is important that all bodies who undertake to review APC applications apply a consistent standard and adopt a consistent policy in their response. Therefore, we propose the following brief structure and feedback process as a framework for all issuing bodies to adopt.


Important Note: Underlying all these guidelines would be the experience and professionalism of those undertaking the reviews. Reviews must be holistic and consider the overall aim of the APC to approve high-quality assessment reports alongside offering positive support to professional colleagues.


The structure sets out the following:

·         A description of the standard for all “effective” assessment reports.

·         A hierarchical structure for analysis of errors / weaknesses

·         A structured process for response / feedback


Effective assessment reports should demonstrate:

·         understanding of the nature of SpLD

·         understanding of affective issues in learners with SpLD

·         ability to collect a range of evidence from a variety of sources

·         understanding of theory and application of psychometric and educational testing

·         ability to select appropriate assessment materials, administer tests correctly and interpret resulting data accurately

·         ability to produce professional, accurate reports written in language easily accessible to non-specialists, with due regard to building a positive framework.

·         ability to make recommendations directly linked to assessment findings and subjects needs

·         understanding and application of current legal and professional issues, rules and regulations relating to SpLD


Structure for analysis [highlighting denotes revisions October 2015] 

Requirements at Level 1

Areas of the report where absolute accuracy and reliability is required at all times.

·         Confidentiality maintained

·         100% accurate calculation, reporting and conversion of test scores
Please note: Where there are minor scoring errors that are technically incorrect but do not have material effect on the interpretation this will not mean automatic rejection, providing the standard of the report elsewhere is of sufficient quality.  Feedback and recommendations will still be made and this will be applicable for a first report, not just a second

·         Tests are age appropriate and evidence suggests they were conducted within standardisation guidelines

·         Diagnosis / conclusion supported by evidence 

·         All core components should be included in the report as outlined in DfES guidelines (SpLD Working Group 2005, DfES Guidelines, The recommended format for a diagnostic assessment report for SpLD, pp.23-35)


Requirements at Level 2

Key areas of the report where very high degrees of reliability required. We would expect all reports to demonstrate these features.

·         Understanding of the nature of SpLD, especially role of cognitive processing  is demonstrated

·         Unexpected differences within and between tests are investigated and discussed

·         Correct interpretation of scores in relation to average are given

·         Confidence intervals are used to inform analysis as appropriate

·         Qualitative analysis and observation of skills and strategies across all assessment areas are included

·         Appropriate range of tests are chosen to cover all core component test areas

·         Sensitive and professional communication of findings are written in an accessible manner

·         Appropriate recommendations are made and are clearly linked to assessment findings

·         The report must be appropriate for purpose.


Requirements at Level 3

Areas where the key purpose and function of the report are not compromised but where improvement would be desirable.

·         Accurate spelling and grammar is maintained throughout

·         Appropriate presentation and format are provided, including relevant details to explain report features (test editions, explanation of scores etc)

·         Reference to and inclusion of a current and relevant definition of identified SpLD is given.


Although not necessarily demonstrated through the report evidence submitted, it is understood that for the assessment process the following have been incorporated in practice:

     test selection takes into consideration equal opportunity

     pre-testing requirements and conditions for assessment have been considered

     there are clear arrangements for feedback

     security and confidentiality of test materials and report are maintained

     practice is in accordance with the APC issuing body’s code of ethics and standards of practice.



Options following review of report submitted for evaluation 

A1      All criteria met

·       APC issued

·       Feedback supplied

Any supporting document the reviewer feels necessary can be requested


A2      Minor level 1 error identified

·       An amendment of the inaccurate scores identified is requested. Once received and approved, APC issued

B        Level 1 error identified

·       Feedback supplied

·       Second report requested

C        A number of level 2 weaknesses identified (or a serious degree of a single type of Level 2 weakness)

·       Feedback supplied

·       Second report requested

D        Level 2 or 3 weaknesses identified which do not undermine overall standard of report.

·       Feedback supplied and applicants advised to incorporate feedback into future practice. [Any supporting documents the reviewer feels necessary can be requested]

·       APC issued

Please Note: Second submitted report is evaluated using same criteria. If this report also fails to meet the standard, and evidence of level 1 or 2 errors exists, the APC application is refused.



Response when APC application is refused


   Assessor’s listing on SASC website indicates APC not current

   Assessors advised to undertake individual mentoring from an experienced colleague, or further training

   Assessors asked to provide evidence of mentoring or training before re-applying for APC

   Re-applications not to be considered within 2 months.