Let’s not return to flawed exams. We have better ways to assess our children

The pandemic has given us a perfect opportunity to reset the education system

Peter Hyman Co-Director, Big Education

This piece was first published in The Guardian

After a week of GCSE and A-level results, we are in danger of missing the big point – our assessment system is not fit for purpose. It ruins the last four years of school on a narrow, stressful, unfair and badly designed exam merry-go-round. So, before we revert to flawed pre-Covid exams, now is the time for radical change.

The results of teacher assessments, we are told, is “grade inflation” but perhaps they actually reflect grade reality – the reality of what a child has learned in that subject over time, rather than merely what they can recall in that highly pressured moment in an exam hall.

Simon Lebus, head of Ofqual, the exams watchdog, is right when he says: “Exams are a bit like a snapshot, a photograph – you capture an instant, it’s a form of sampling – whereas teacher assessment allows teachers to observe student performance over a much longer period, in a rather more complex way, taking into account lots of different pieces of work and arriving at a holistic judgment. We can feel satisfied that it’s likely to give a much more accurate and substantial reflection of what their students are capable of achieving.”

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