Influencing the national education debate

Academic & Curriculum, Bedales Senior

Bedales is once again playing its part in the national education debate.

In an article for The Telegraph, Head of Bedales, Magnus Bashaarat, argues that schools must use all available evidence for grading, with schools heavily involved in scrutiny. This follows the announcement by the Education Secretary that for 2021 GCSE and A level examinations will again be cancelled, and that this time he is going to put his trust in teachers and not algorithms.

Magnus observes that pupils’ marked work in Year 12 which would have informed their predicted grade for any UCAS application 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. Any formative assessment data from the Autumn term, he says, could also go towards creating a transcript of achievement. Scheduled mock exams for the Spring term should still happen, either when schools re-open or online.

Appropriate moderation is essential, although Magnus favours a different arrangement to that proposed by Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon who has called for the mobilisation of retired teachers and Ofsted inspectors to check pupils’ work. Rather, he would like to see local consortiums of schools across sectors oversee the awarding of grades in each subject, sampling representative high, middle and lower band achievement. Exam boards could then organise examiners regionally to moderate pupils’ work and cross reference the evidence provided by centres, including looking at physical evidence as part of school visits.

He concludes: “All of these suggestions, I believe, would play to the strengths already present in our education system, whilst offering the reassurance of rigorous and appropriate oversight. Ultimately, government must trust teachers with the business of education, and when the dust has settled would do well to ask itself how and why this ever ceased to be the case.”

The full article can be seen on the Telegraph website here (subscription may be required).

Two letters have also been published in the national press on educational matters:

With our experience of Bedales Assessed Courses, Magnus Bashaarat highlighted the Government's U-turn from the promise of GCSE & A Level exams to teacher assessments in a lead letter in the Times. Read more (subscription may be needed).

In a letter in the Sunday Times, a broad group of educationalists including Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee, former Education Secretary Lord Baker and Bedales Director of Learning and Innovation, Alistair McConville, called for an overhaul of exams and a royal commission to develop a solution fit for today’s needs. Read the full letter here (subscription may be needed).  

The Government's prevarication with summer exams has highlighted the benefits of a mixed economy of assessment methods so it was good to hear Bedales' experience of our GCSE-alternative qualification (Bedales Assessed Courses) feature in the BBC Radio PM programme. Listen here from from 52 minutes' (available until 5/2/21).

Both Alistair McConville and Magnus Bashaarat are members of the Rethinking Assessment group of school leaders, academics and business people calling for change to the exam and assessment system. Members of the group organise and contribute to a range of events and activities on this topic. There is an open invitation to a discussion hosted by The Edge Foundation on 27 January on assessment and what can be learnt from international trends and approaches. More information.

**UPDATE 22/1/21** See FT article, Educators around world seek to take axe to exam-based learning which features our bespoke Bedales Assessed Courses as an alternative to GCSE qualifications to allow "more creativity and freedom in learning".

**UPDATE 29/1/21** Coinciding with the Government’s final day of consultation on this summer’s exam arrangements, the BBC World At One radio programme included a discussion on the case for change from the current exam-based system. You can hear an interview with educationalist Rachel Macfarlane (from 20 minutes) here. Together with Magnus and Alistair, Rachel is a member of the Rethinking Assessment group - Bedales was the driving force in the establishment of the group last year.