Lessons from the pandemic

Academic & Curriculum, Bedales Senior

In an article for The Week Independent Schools Guide (Autumn/Winter 2021), Head of Bedales Magnus Bashaarat discusses educating in the time of COVID and his conviction that face-to-face contact between teachers and students is crucial, and makes the case for assessment reform.

The start of the pandemic saw some independent schools delivering their curricula online to a paying customer base beyond their usual rolls. Magnus is enthusiastic about some of the possibilities revealed by schools’ migration to online learning – for example the shared real-time editing of written work using SharePoint. He says: “No longer the toing and froing of A4 paper covered in red ink. Now it is a guided drafting and grading process on a shared online space that cannot get eaten by the dog.”

However, Magnus is suspicious of those proponents of Artificial Intelligence who predict that teachers will be replaced by robots or digital devices. He says: “Real-time, three-dimensional contact is irreplaceable, and seeing the reaction and emotion of students in person and the joy when that sacred connection was restored once we opened the school again was incredible.” On the flip side, he observes that many of this summer’s school leavers are planning gap years because the prospect of some undergraduate courses being delivered online in the new university year is so unpalatable.

Although the pandemic put teachers in the invidious position of having to both deliver the curriculum and perform tasks more normally associated with exam boards, Magnus is not keen to see a return to business as usual in the shape of the usual GCSE and A Level formats. He concludes: “This year has taught us that many students have fared better when the high-stakes terminal assessments have been replaced by evidence of achievement spread over a much longer time. It really is the moment to rethink assessment and overhaul the outdated national curriculum.”

To read the full article, click below, with thanks to The Week Independent Schools Guide.

Magnus Bashaarat | Rethinking Assessment | The Week