It’s another ‘F’ for the education unions

It’s another ‘F’ for the education unions

Progressive educationalists and the education unions are again attempting to abolish GCSEs – they really don’t want to test at all.

The National Education Union said it will be debating a motion at its Easter conference to abolish the exams.

This would be disastrous for children’s education.

GCSEs have been in place for many years and there is no need to re-invent the wheel when what is in place works perfectly well.

It is not perfect, however. The new grading system, for example, is confusing with the use of numbers in reverse order indicating attainment.

All that needed to be done was to add a B* grade.

The cause of the abolitionists has been strengthened by the absence of GCSEs and A-Levels this summer and last, the long-term effects of which are unknown but I expect will be extremely negative.

Instead of exams the progressives and unions would rather have teacher assessments and coursework as a means of measuring the progress of students.

But this is incredibly difficult to moderate.

Teacher assessments are not accurate – we already know this from our experience of last year’s grading, which quite frankly led to grade inflation.

I don’t think GCSE and A’ Level exams should have been cancelled last year or this year.

In 2020, schools were empty for months and the exams could have been staged in a Covid-secure manner.

This summer, exams could be slimmed down to focus on a small number of topics; a far superior and reliable way to assess the children.

Many other countries also use our GCSE and A-Level exams, particularly if they are in the Commonwealth.

Quite frankly, giving up our exam system for a highly unreliable means of grading by schools will make a mockery of proper standards being maintained in our educational system.

There would be no independent verification of children’s school results because we would have exchanged it for a disastrous system where schools ‘mark their own homework’.

The argument that is frequently used to justify exam abolition is that teachers ‘teach to the test’.

Of course they do.

But if the exams are well-devised they will accurately reflect what a child knows and is able to do.

And the professionals who mark them will be able to understand the level of knowledge a student has by working through their paper.

Any sensible student will do some past papers and revise thoroughly for an exam and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Teachers teach and test all the time in the classroom either through oral questioning or by written exercises. This is the natural process of learning.

The problem with coursework completed at home and then submitted for assessment is that it favours middle-class children. Their parents will often help them with the work or pay tutors.

Some will even pay to have essays written for their children via specialist websites.

The only way to do coursework is in school with time limits. Or ‘exams’ as they are known.

Exams are a leveller. Like uniforms, they hide wealth and poverty and give everyone the same chance.

It’s as if the progressives who want to abolish uniforms and exams are paid lobbyists for the sharp-elbowed middle classes.

But education is for everyone and it is the less well-off parents who want uniforms and testing. They, more than anyone, understand the importance of these parts of schooling and education.

But they don’t have the voice – or the elbows.

It is these parents who our legislators must listen to. They understand that their children have one chance at school.

They don’t have the resources or contacts to catch up later as the middle classes do.

Exams are the best method we have of gauging the attainment of students and they must remain.