Are exams fit for purpose? This was published in Independent Education Today: https://ie-today.co.uk/features/are-exams-fit-for-purpose/
Have the events of the last year shed new light on how we approach assessments? Hazel Davis investigates.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on all aspects of education and exams have borne the brunt. Uncertainty around assessment has meant that some education providers have started to give serious consideration to whether testing in the form we know it is fit for purpose at all.
It’s not the first time there’s been uncertainty around the point of exams. When GCSEs were first introduced back in 1988, students had the choice to stay at school until they were 16 or stay on for A-levels. Now they stay until they’re 18 anyway, many argue that GCSEs have needed a rethink for some time. The country’s skills crisis has further highlighted a need for something different.
A report called The Future of Education, co-authored by Tory MPs Flick Drummond and Cherilyn Mackrory, advocates replacing GCSEs with academic, technical exams and apprenticeships at 18 and suggests the adoption of a similar system to the Baccalaureate at 18 “but our own British version”.
Others agree that Covid-19 has provided just the opportunity we’ve been waiting for for a complete reform. The TES reported that England’s major exam boards were asked if they could move GCSE and A-level exams online this summer, with sources suggesting that the Department for Education was more receptive to overhauling the idea of pen-and-paper GCSEs and A-levels.
Greg Brooks, emeritus professor of education at the University of Sheffield, told the Guardian last year he was in favour of no centralised assessment until the age of 18 and “a common curriculum for all children until they begin to know what sort of educational and work career would suit them”.
“I have been in favour of GCSE reform for a long time,” says David Ashton, deputy head, academic, at Framlingham College, a boarding and day school for boys and girls aged three to 18 in Sussex.
“Remote learning at GCSE has been a powerful reminder that pupils can be autonomous learners and less reliant on teachers than involved by traditional approaches to learning.”
Ashton also believes that remote learning has also shown us the advantages of continuous assessment, which is meaningfully embedded in day-to-day learning. This, he says, “is a more accurate assessment of a pupil’s learning as opposed to a series of terminal examinations which test stamina and memory, as much as anything.”
The article continues online.