Testing Time for Exams (September 2021)

Testing Time for Exams (September 2021)

An education expert and former government adviser is urging the government to stand firm against a growing movement that wants to abolish exams.

Dr Stephen Curran, who advised the coalition government on the maths syllabus, suspects unions want to do away with the traditional end-of-year tests.

He believes the Covid pandemic has given the profession an excuse to campaign for a move to assessment-only grading.

The National Education Union has already launched an Independent Assessment Commission to consider views on the assessment system.

Dr Curran said: “Firstly, any changes to the system should be carefully considered and not a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic crisis.

“It is clear that the National Education Union and some other organisations are keen to move to a virtually exam-free system and this crisis is an opportunity they don’t want to miss.

“I’m not against some form of assessment testing but it must be rigorous and examinations should still make up the lion’s share.

“It is possible to do timed coursework in school under very strict conditions, but allowing students to do assessments at home will not work and will not be fair.

“Those with access to adult help, tutors and the money to pay for someone else to complete the tasks will be at a huge advantage.

“Exams are not perfect but they are the best method we have, and importantly no one has an advantage over anyone else once they have turned over their papers. It benefits the poorer students.

“Marking is standardised too so the results are easier to compare and it is a much better way for parents to determine how well their children are doing.

“My fear is that the unions will begin cranking up their call for the abolishment of end of year exams and a move to assessment-only testing.

“What we need now is a return to exams as we had before the pandemic, and not a wholesale change of the system.

“The NEU’s so-called ‘independent’ assessment commission is seeking ‘radical’ reform – something we don’t need.

“If there are to be any changes it should be making a distinction between academic and vocational routes.

“I have long been an advocate of children following different pathways at either at 13-14 years (Year 9) or 14-15 years (Year 10).

“The Year 10 option is probably best as it works with the system we currently have in place.

“It means that some children – around 25% – can follow a highly academic pathway at this point and around 75% can follow a vocational or technical pathway.”




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