Future of qualifications and assessment
Bedales Head Magnus Basharaat has responded to a ‘major’ consultation conducted by exam board Pearson – Future of Qualifications and Assessment – steered by an expert panel including former education secretaries Damian Hinds, Baroness Morris and Lord Blunkett.
Magnus explains that the school considers the national curriculum and associated qualification regime to be prescriptive, dull, narrow and inadequate, and points to the growing dissatisfaction with GCSEs, increasingly considered redundant given the raising of the school leaving age to 18, and government’s fixation with exams.
He says: “As we see it, the only remaining value in GCSEs lies in informing A level grade predications for the purpose of university admissions. However, they are notoriously unreliable, and there is powerful evidence that the status quo does a disservice to applicants from the state sector and disadvantaged families. Reforms to university admission must proceed without argument, and once this is done there is no good reason for retaining GCSEs.
Whilst assessment is important it should not mean an exclusive reliance on terminal exams. Rather, Magnus believes we should build on the re-emergence of teacher assessment drawing upon a range of evidence, resulting from the COVID pandemic and the cancellation of exams.
He says: “Pupils’ marked work in Year 12 could be used as the basis for an evidenced portfolio of achievement, and this would include results from any internal school exams. The same could apply to any pupil who wasn’t planning to go down the university route after school. With appropriate moderation, this would play to strengths already present in our education system. Ultimately, government must trust teachers with the business of education.”
Magnus concludes: “As we consider a world no longer dominated by the threat of COVID, we must aim higher than simply returning to what we knew. Whatever government decides to do next will require energy, and it would be a waste to expend that energy on heading back to where we were – a place that fewer and fewer people were happy being. We can, and must, do better.
Bedales has been innovating with its own wider range of assessments since 2006 when it introduced Bedales Assessed Courses. To build a broader coalition of support for exam reform from like-minded educationalists, politicians and business people, Bedales has played a central role in founding the Rethinking Assessment group.
The full Bedales response to the Pearson consultation can be read here.