A movement to value the strengths of every child



A movement to value the strengths of every child

Join us and be part of the change

Our exam system is a mess. Now is the time to reshape it.

There has been a growing belief that there is something wrong with our exam and assessment system.

In particular, people question why we are continuing with the curious anomaly of a school leaving age exam at 16 – GCSEs – when young people can’t leave education until 18. 

Much of that anxiety was crystallised in the events of this Summer which has left the whole edifice in a state of flux.

Headteachers, teachers, students, parents, and businesses are now raising big issues about how we can do things better in the future.

Many young people find the way our exam system works increasingly stressful and not a true reflection of what they are good at.

Many employers complain that exams do not provide them with good enough clues as to who they are employing.

Many headteachers feel that high stakes exams distort priorities and stops them from providing a well rounded education for their pupils.

Many who are passionate about social mobility believe that any system that dooms a third to fail is a system with little sense of social justice.

This website is a place for those who want change. We start out as a group of state, independent and special schools, business people, academics and stakeholders, united in the desire to create something fairer and more fit for purpose.

The aim is twofold:

To make the argument through case studies, analysis, evidence and thoughtful blogs

To start to provide some workable solutions, practical ideas and approaches that we will pilot in our schools and offer as real alternatives.

So for us, critique is important but not sufficient. We are in this to make a difference and to help all those who want something better.

So, if you believe now is the time to rethink assessment, join us, help us, add your voice and ideas.

This is your chance to help us answer these important questions:

How do we ensure that...

The assessment system recognises the full range of a young person’s strengths?

The needs of a rich and broad curriculum underpin the design of any assessment?

A young person is given proper recognition for achieving the set criteria instead of there being a fixed pass rate for assessments?

Assessment is useful for the pathways of all students whether going to university, college or employment?

Schools are judged on the quality and range of their education offer and not a narrow set of exam results?

We learn from the best assessment practices in the UK and across the world?

A repertoire of assessment tools should be used to value the full range of a young person’s achievements

Schools should be judged on a balanced scorecard of their full educational provision and not just exam results

Students should take assessments when ready not at a fixed point

Curriculum not the requirements of exams should underpin the design of any assessment

There should be no fixed pass rate for school exams - if you meet the standard you should be able to pass

Schools should not do the sorting and comparing of students on behalf of Universities

Students should have some agency in curating how they wish to present their achievements

Sign up to these principles

Latest signatories

Ellie Lister Big Education
Joe Pardoe Big Education
Greg Michaels Digital Explorer
Anna Smith Learning in Harmony Trust
Peter Hyman Big Education
Ben Rollo-Hayward Big Education

Rethinking Assessment Blogs

Standards beyond a syllabus, assessment beyond marking, reporting beyond grades

Amelia Peterson Social Policy Fellow at the London School of Economics

In my last blog, I described why we had to change the underlying assumptions of the exam system: for the most part, it’s not a competition. The broader purpose of exams is about incentivising learning. Exams motivate...

Exams are more about accountability systems than authenticity of student learning and harm well-being

Chris Jeffrey Head of Bootham School in York and Chair of the HMC Well-being Group

In 2016, Mental Health Tsar, Natasha Devon, suggested that the UK public exam system was a significant cause of the spiralling crisis in teenage mental health. “Time and time again young people - and the people who...

Exploding the myth that exam grades are objective

Dennis Sherwood Creativity consultant, and campaigner for reliable assessments. Formerly a consultant to OFQUAL.

In reply to a question posed at the Select Committee hearing on 2nd September 2020, Dame Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s Interim Chief Regulator, made an important statement: that exam grades are “reliable to one grade either...