Charlotte and Martin Noon write:
According to a survey we conducted through Tes, 81.4per cent of secondary teachers believe that the exam system was in need of a change, even before Covid-19. The effects of the pandemic have placed a spotlight on this issue.
Similarly, in a survey of primary teachers, many expressed dissatisfaction with Sats, suggesting that the tests should “be scrapped” as they are placing unnecessary pressure on teachers and young children. Many commented that teacher assessment is a far more accurate reflection of a child’s ability at key stages 1 and 2. There was also a call for more emphasis on real-life skills.
Secondary teachers likewise commented that they would prefer the curriculum to be more relevant, taking the context of “real life” into account, and placing less emphasis on memory and fact recall.
In terms of favoured assessment methods, of those surveyed, 59.7 per cent of secondary teachers would like to see the return of more controlled assessments. This would be ideal for those students who work in a slower and more methodical way.
However, some teachers have reservations about the return of coursework, as it opens up the possibility of unfairly inflated grades, and 69.9 per cent of the secondary teachers surveyed think that another form of teacher assessment (perhaps with more guidance and moderation) should replace exams instead.
In fact, 73.2 per cent of secondary teachers said that they felt the centre-assessed grades that were awarded last year, and will be awarded again this summer, have enabled them to give students their true potential grade. As we saw in 2020, however, this puts a huge responsibility on teachers to award certain grades rather than on an anonymous awarding body.
Another popular option seems to be a return to the modular system, whereby students take more regular exams with the option to retake.
It has also been suggested that a system with an emphasis on “passing” each year (as is used in some European countries) would be fairer. Indeed, this would seem to remove much of the pressure at the end of Year 11 and would ensure consistent effort and consolidation throughout a student’s school life.