Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the report of the Independent Assessment Commission (IAC) on the future of assessment and qualifications in England.
“There’s a gathering body of opinion that our exams system needs an overhaul and we welcome the contribution of this report as part of that important debate.
“Many people in education feel that our current system of GCSEs is an anachronism which harks back to an era when large numbers of young people left school at 16 rather than generally going on to further education and training as they do now.
“The government has doubled down on this anachronism by making the current iteration of GCSEs rather like old-fashioned O-levels – very academic, with lots of memorisation, and assessed almost solely on a large set of terminal exams.
“It does feel as though we need to do things differently and more flexibly, and there’s a lot to be said for a different style of qualification, particularly in the gateway subjects of English and maths. These could be turned into a passport qualification taken at different levels and built on over time, as we recommended in our report into the ‘forgotten third’ a few years ago.
“There is also a strong argument for making more use of digital technology in assessment, which could not only move us away from the pen and paper era but allow for more adaptive assessment built around the individual student.
“But we do need to be conscious also about the importance of ensuring that any adaptations to the current exam system are do-able and deliverable, and beware of entirely trying to re-invent the wheel. This in itself contains enormous challenges and risks. It is probably a case of evolution rather than revolution.”