Assessment Only‎ > ‎

AO assessment process

AO Home Introduction Summary  Applications The Assessment Teaching Experience Portfolio Guidance

The Pre-Assessment Review
Once The Cambridge Partnership has reviewed an application to confirm that Assessment Only may be a suitable route to QTS for the applicant, a member of the team will contact the applicant to discuss preparation and arrangements for the Pre-Assessment Review. This will include a discussion and review of the applicant’s teaching experience and qualifications, as well as the diagnostic assessment of their Fundamental English and Mathematics proficiency.

The Pre-Assessment Review will determine whether there is a need for further teaching experience (and if so, the nature of the experience required), or for development of English and Mathematics skills. A brief report summarising the outcome and any further actions necessary is provided following the review. Timing for progress to the next stage of the process is dependent, in part, on the outcome from this review.

Original certificates for the AO applicant's qualifications (including GCSEs or equivalent for Mathematics, English and where relevant, a science, and the applicant’s degree) must also be available. A provisional statement of results (often issued on ‘results day’) is not acceptable as proof of qualifications. Qualifications in key and functional skills at level 2 (such as adult literacy or adult numeracy) are not equivalent to GCSEs in terms of content and are therefore not acceptable.

Guidance on getting replacement GCSE certificates is available from the government’s web page ‘Get a replacement exam certificate’ at The applicant must obtain a ‘certified statement of results’ from the relevant organisation. For replacement degree certificates, applicants should contact the relevant awarding institution.

Where the originals are not provided by the Applicant, the application cannot proceed to assessment without them providing proof of qualification. This can take several weeks to obtain. The Cambridge Partnership cannot start formal assessment until these are available.

Further information is needed to assess the equivalence of alternative qualifications (such as overseas qualifications). As it is the standard of GCSE English, mathematics, and where relevant science that is the requirement for Assessment Only, The Cambridge Partnership can provide information for applicants to take equivalency tests with assessors approved by The Cambridge Partnership. Passing these approved equivalency tests allows the AO applicant to demonstrate that they meet the required standard without needing to wait for an opportunity to sit a GCSE examination and wait for the results. 

The Initial Assessment Visit
Preparation for the Initial Assessment Visit
Following the pre-assessment review, applicants should complete compiling their portfolio of evidence of how they meet each of the Teachers’ Standards as part of their preparation for the Initial Assessment Visit.

A subject/phase knowledge audit and portfolio of evidence of meeting the Teachers’ Standards should be compiled before the Initial Visit. It is helpful if the Portfolio Evidence and Justification grid is also completed. Evidence should be matched against each of the Teachers’ Standards. It is not a requirement that the portfolio is complete but there should be evidence of meeting all or nearly all of the Teachers’ Standards. Further details on the subject/phase knowledge audit and portfolio of evidence are provided in the relevant sections of this document.

The Initial Visit may take approximately 4 hours and the school will need to arrange cover release from any other teaching for the AO applicant. The professional tutor or school mentor will need to meet with the assessor during the Initial Visit, and jointly observe the applicant’s teaching. 

The Initial Assessment Visit
This visit is conducted by an assessor from The Cambridge Partnership. The assessor will conduct at least one lesson observation jointly with the professional tutor or school mentor, discuss the observation with the professional tutor or mentor, discuss the lesson with the applicant, interview the school mentor and/or professional tutor, together with informal discussions with other senior colleagues, and scrutiny of the applicant’s portfolio of evidence for the Teachers’ Standards.

The AO applicant must present the portfolio of evidence demonstrating that he or she knows and meets the Teachers’ Standards. It should be available for scrutiny from the start of the day or have been made available electronically beforehand. A suitable location and facilities should be available for the assessor to review the portfolio of evidence provided by the AO applicant. Electronic or online portfolios are acceptable provided that necessary access is provided for the assessor in a suitable file format.

The full fees for Assessment Only are applicable once the Initial Assessment Visit has taken place. If the applicant is unsuccessful or the school or applicant decides not to proceed after the Initial Assessment Visit has taken place, the full costs of the application and assessment will be payable.

Outcomes of the Initial Assessment Visit
At the end of the Initial Assessment Visit, the assessor will discuss the evidence provided by the AO applicant of how they meet the Teachers’ Standards, and from the lesson observation and discussions with the school mentor and senior colleagues in the school.

The assessor will have limited time to give feedback about particular Standards or pieces of evidence for the portfolio. The assessor will, however, identify any aspects for which additional evidence should be provided prior to Final Assessment taking place. These will be outlined in the report from the Initial Assessment Visit. 

There are three potential outcomes from the Initial Visit: 
  • The applicant is ready to commence the formal assessment of the Assessment Only route to QTS and progress to a Final Assessment visit.
  • The applicant requires an Interim Visit to assess some aspects of their teaching and/or subject/phase knowledge, but is likely to be able then to proceed with the Assessment Only route to QTS.
  • The Applicant is not yet ready to progress to formal assessment and the Assessment Only route to QTS is not appropriate for the applicant at the current time.
The assessor will determine the outcome and this will be conveyed to the AO applicant and to the school, normally within 10 working days of the visit. Often this can be provided orally at the end of the Initial Assessment Visit.

If an Additional Visit is required, the discussion at the end of the Initial Assessment Visit will need to consider the focus for the Additional Visit and what will be required for this.

The Assessment Only route to QTS has no training component. If the initial assessment identifies the need for further training in order to meet the Teachers’ Standards then the Applicant cannot be registered with the Department for Education for the Assessment Only route to QTS. The assessor will discuss appropriate alternatives towards QTS with the applicant and mentor. 

Additional Visit
An Additional Visit may be part of the process of confirming that the AO applicant has at least good subject/phase knowledge for teaching and has the necessary evidence for Final Assessment. If necessary, an additional, experienced assessor with relevant subject or phase expertise from The Cambridge Partnership will arrange an Additional Visit (usually to take place within 3-6 weeks of the Initial Visit).

The assessor will:
  • observe at least one lesson in the specified age phase
  • scrutinise the AO applicant's audit of national curriculum /examination specifications
  • check the applicant’s subject/phase knowledge for teaching

The Final Assessment Visit
Before the Final Assessment Visit can take place, the AO applicant must have completed any necessary actions to provide the required evidence identified from the Initial Visit or any Additional Visit. Evidence of the actions taken and outcomes must have been documented and available for the Final Assessment Visit. This evidence may be provided as a supplement to the applicant’s portfolio of evidence.

The outcome from the Final Assessment must be reported to the Department for Education within twelve calendar weeks of registering the AO applicant with the DfE as having commenced assessment for the AO route to QTS. The Final Assessment Visit must be scheduled to allow enough time for completion of the final report and to report the outcome to the DfE.

During the Final Assessment Visit, evidence will also be collected from:
  • at least one lesson observation, in a different age range (or for primary phase applicants timetabled to teach only a single class, a different core subject) from the Initial Visit with a minimum of approximately one hour of teaching
  • discussion with the AO applicant
  • discussion with school mentor, professional tutor, and senior member of staff as appropriate
  • the updated portfolio of evidence (if required)
The AO applicant must present the completed portfolio of evidence demonstrating that he or she knows and meets the Teachers’ Standards. It must be available for scrutiny from the start of the day. The ‘Portfolio Evidence and Justification’ document should be available with the Portfolio.

The school must provide a room in which the assessor is not likely to be disturbed if scrutiny of the updated portfolio is required. A suitable room is also needed to hold the discussions with the school mentor and with the AO applicant. The assessor must be satisfied that the AO applicant is familiar with all the Teachers’ Standards at the appropriate level and has presented evidence of meeting each of them in full.

There must also be clear documentary evidence of any required further evidence, identified in the Initial Assessment Visit or any Additional Visit. This should include evidence of the impact that this has on the AO applicant’s teaching. 

Report and Recommendation
A Final Assessment Report will be prepared by the assessor following the Final Assessment Visit. This will be based upon evidence from teaching observed, discussions with the school mentor, professional tutor and other senior staff from the school, and the AO applicant’s Portfolio of Evidence.

Points for future development may be recommended. These areas for development may feed into professional development linked to an NQT programme.

The Report will make one of the following recommendations:
  • that QTS should be awarded.
  • that QTS should not be awarded
Within 10 working days the Final Assessment Report is sent to the AO applicant and to the headteacher or relevant senior member of staff of the school.

The provider will forward its recommendation to the Department for Education who award QTS. This procedure usually takes several days.

An AO applicant has the opportunity to appeal against the recommendation provided in the report.