Assess for Success

Assess for Success is a programme created by Manchester College that aims to improve the assessment of learners resitting GCSE English. Teachers were provided with a paper-based diagnostic assessment to establish students’ strengths and weaknesses in key English skills; progress assessments for teachers to monitor student development over the year; a skills profile sheet that describes the eight key English skills; and two learner tracking tools, that allowed students to track their own progress.

These resources were supported by a programme of CPD, including 4 days of training and practice sharing, peer mentoring from staff at Manchester College, and a ‘community of practice’ within each participating college which encouraged teachers to reflect on their current practice and review progress. 


Key Stage 5

Key stage




EEF Summary

Since 2014, students without a good pass in English and Maths GCSE (a ‘4’ or higher under the new GCSE grading system) must continue to study these subjects until they are 18, or secure a qualification in them. This pilot was funded by the EEF as part of a joint initiative with J.P. Morgan to explore how to improve outcomes for disadvantaged 16- to 18-year-old students who are required to re-sit these exams.

The pilot found that teachers and coordinators considered the Diagnostic Assessment as used in the programme to be an improvement on the assessment they had previously been using. However, the resources for teachers required improvements and additions, and both teachers and students had concerns that the lack of alignment between the assessment and the GCSE exam led to false expectations. Overall, the pilot found some evidence of promise, but recommended significant development and further piloting before the programme would be ready for a further trial.

The EEF currently has no plans for a further trial of ‘Assess for Success’ but will continue to consider other projects which aim to improve English and Maths outcomes for students re-sitting their GCSE exams.

Research Results




Does it appear that this intervention could improve the English GCSE attainment of learners in FE colleges?


There were reports from teachers and students that AfS had a positive effect on students’ sense of achievement, and that this led to an increase in self-confidence (although this was partly attributed to the ease of the AfS assessments). Some teachers felt more able to describe their individual students development priorities, however both teachers and students had concerns that the lack of alignment between the two assessments led to false expectations about the difficulty of the GCSE exam.

Can the intervention be delivered in a way that is effective for FE Colleges and FE English Teachers?


The core AfS assessments were used in the majority of settings, but barriers were experienced in engaging with other resources like the Moodle platform. Resources for teachers require improvements and additions, and the training and CPD was perceived as useful in parts but requires substantial design work.

Is the intervention ready to be evaluated in a trial?


Substantial improvements to the intervention and its management are required. The inconsistencies in evidence of promise and the issues raised in relation to feasibility suggest that significant development and piloting is advisable before the intervention is reassessed for readiness for trial.

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 5

Start date

May 2018

End date

December 2019

Type of trial

Pilot Study

  1. Updated: 9th July, 2020

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-assess-for-success.pdf

  2. Updated: 12th December, 2019

    Evaluation report

    1 MB pdf - Assess_for_success.pdf

  3. Updated: 23rd March, 2018

    Project Protocol

    346 KB pdf - Assess_for_Success_Protocol_2018.03.16_FINAL.pdf

Full project description

Assess for Success (AfS) aimed to improve outcomes for learners on GCSE English resits through improved use of diagnostic and formative assessment to drive teaching and learning. The Manchester College (TMC, which is part of the LTE Group), a large, multi-campus Further Education (FE) college, developed this new approach to formative assessment for GCSE English resit students. The programme comprises a diagnostic assessment, three progress assessments, a skills profile, and two learning tracking tools. These resources are supported by a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Six FE colleges took part in the pilot, one of which was TMC; the latter played the roles of both developer and participant. Due to this dual role, staff and students from TMC were not considered recipients of the intervention for the purposes of the evaluation. In total, 58 members of staff and 4,229 students took part in the pilot. Intervention delivery took place between June 2018 and June 2019, and the main data collection activities for the evaluation were conducted between October 2018 and April 2019.

This pilot was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) as part of a joint initiative with J.P. Morgan to explore how to improve outcomes for disadvantaged 16- to 18-year-old students who achieve below a grade 4 in GCSE English or maths.