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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.


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 of errors/weaknesses


Area of professional practice


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

·         Appropriate recording of standard scores, percentiles and confidence intervals

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

·         Diagnosis / conclusion supported by evidence

Any single error in this category to prompt immediate rejection of the report regardless of other features.

For example:

  • one score inaccurate despite otherwise competent report.
  • incorrect transcription of scores
  • incorrect analysis

Level 2

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

·         Demonstrates understanding of the nature of SpLD - especially role of cognitive processing

·         Links between ability and attainment made appropriately

·         Correct interpretation of scores in relation to average

·         Confidence intervals used to inform analysis

·         Useful analysis of skills and strategies

·         Appropriate for purpose

·         Appropriate range of tests chosen

·         Clear, jargon free writing - especially in summary and conclusion.

·         Appropriate recommendations, clearly linked to assessment findings

Anything beyond a very small number of errors at level 2 would require serious consideration for rejection.


A significant weakness in only one area could prompt rejection.


Feedback to be provided on identified weaknesses

Level 3

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

·         Accuracy of spelling, grammar etc

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

·         Accessibility of language

Errors at level 3 would usually prompt recommendations for future practice but clearly, if the degree of the error were severe rejection would remain an option.


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.


Process for response and feedback

Options following review of report submitted for evaluation

  1. All criteria met

·         APC issued

  1. Level 1 error identified

·         Feedback prepared

·         Second report requested*

  1. A number of Level 2 errors identified (or serious degree of a single type of error)

·         Feedback prepared

·         Second report requested*

  1. Level 2 or 3 errors identified which do not undermine overall function of report

·         Feedback prepared

·         Applicants asked to sign and return copy of feedback to indicate they will incorporate feedback into future practice. Any supporting document the reviewer feels necessary can be requested.

·         On receipt APC issued.



* Second submitted report 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


·         Assessors to be removed from SASC website listing

·         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 be considered within 2 months