Dr Mike Walker, Headmaster at Felsted School comments: “I believe it is good to inject more rigour into some courses and I welcome this. I am very supportive of more challenging texts in English, or problems in Maths, for example, as expectations of all learners should be high; but I do think that coursework and controlled assessments also have a place. It is the application of learning which is so important, as well as pure academic understanding.
“I would also strongly emphasise the holistic development of the individual through 'soft skill' enhancement which is precisely the aspect not measured by traditional examinations. Any form of assessment system only tests the particular aspects you are trying to evaluate, and it is more important in a rapidly changing society that pupils remain good learners for life, than that they have accumulated a body of academic or factual knowledge only.
“Examinations and course at this level require a blend of rigour, depth and challenge, but also the chance to understand how to learn, to develop confidence as a learner and the capacity to be creative and think independently. Education must be relevant to the needs of society itself. Felsted aims to provide academic rigour, with exceptional ‘Value Added’ academically, and will do so in whatever structure is set for examinations, with an exceptional co-curricular programme focused on the crucial development of other skills too, such as self-presentation, confidence, creativity, team-work, leadership, service and commitment to others.”
The announcement by Michael Gove about the reform of GCSEs which took place yesterday, advocates a return to traditional academic subjects, the slashing of coursework and ‘controlled assessment’, and resits. It would involve tougher texts, advanced algebra in Maths, longer essays in History exams, the inclusion of whole Shakespeare plays, more poetry and 19th Century novels in English, and also fewer awards with great differentiation between the top candidates. The examinations will be taught from September 2015, with the first exams taken in the summer of 2017. There is consultation on a new grading scale of numbers 1-8, with 8 as the top grade. A current ‘pass’ of a C grade will increase in demand to come into line, it is suggested, with high achieving areas or countries such as Shanghai or Finland.
The implementation of these reforms has been described as rushed by some union officials, and OFQUAL says that the plans are “ambitious”. It will be challenging to reform GCSEs at the same time as reforming A Levels, which will move to end of course examinations with no early modules or resits, and AS Levels taken after one year will no longer contribute to an A Level grade. In effect these reforms are returning the education system to the format of the 1990s. 100 academics have already attacked the “endless list of facts” in the proposed exams that they believe will “rob children of the ability to think”.
Notes to Editors
Felsted is a leading independent, co-educational, boarding and day school for pupils aged 4-18, based in East Anglia.
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