Exams may be partly held online in future, says Hinds

Former education secretary predicts there is 'absolutely' room for a 'blended approach' to exams in years to come

Amy Gibbons

Damian Hinds

There is "clearly" potential for some exams to be held online in the future, a former education secretary has said.

Looking to the medium term, there is "absolutely" room for a "blended approach" to assessing students, according to Damian Hinds, who is chairing the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for edtech.

But he urged caution against making "big changes" too rapidly, as there is something "very specific and special" about the way exams are normally held in England.

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Mr Hinds made the comments while speaking to Tes about the new APPG, which is set to scrutinise which approaches to edtech worked well for teachers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said, looking "further ahead", it is possible that some exams could be conducted virtually.

'Potential' for online exams in future

Asked if there is a chance that exams could be held online next year, Mr Hinds said: "Over the medium term, assessment could develop in many different ways. There are some exams that are done online now  if you do the GMAT [Graduate Management Admission Test] or one of those types of exams, you'll be doing them online.

"I think there is also something very specific and special about timed exams and exam conditions  writing essays or responding to science challenges. I think that is our tradition, and there is a lot to be said for it.

"If you look further ahead, absolutely you can see room for a blended approach.

"But what I think everyone's really focused on for next year is making sure that  well, first of all, in the intervening period – we're really, really focused on supporting schools in their work, and making sure that everything can be done to try and mitigate the effects of lockdown, including in terms of the gap and get back as close to possible as normal ahead of exams."

Mr Hinds added that there is "clearly" potential for children to sit part or all of their exams online in the future.

"I think there is absolutely that possibility if you look to the medium term, yes. But it may be different in different subjects," he said.

"But absolutely, you can envisage that being part of the landscape in years to come  as I say, as it is already, of course, in some applications, in some universities – computer-marked assignments and even some quite high-stakes exams. As I was mentioning, for example, the GMAT has been online for many years, so there clearly is the potential.

"But I wouldn't want to lose the point that how we do exams right now, there is something very specific and particular about that, and it works. And when you've got a system that works, people are rightly very cautious about making big changes and quick changes to them."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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