GCSEs: 4 ways teachers want exams to change

Findings reveal majority of teachers favour assessment throughout the year

Catherine Lough

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Most teachers say that exams should be taken throughout the year rather than in end-of-course, linear assessments.

The finding comes from an initial report by Pearson, owner of the exam board Edexcel, as part of a review into the future of exams in the UK.


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In a survey of 5,000 people, including around 1,100 teachers and more than 100 MPs, the board said it did not find evidence of “a strong desire to remove GCSEs or replace our current assessment system with an entirely new one”.

The initial findings show that:

1. Eight in 10 teachers support assessment throughout the year

Over 80 per cent of further education and secondary teachers agreed or strongly agreed that it was better to award GCSEs and A levels based on continuous assessment throughout the course “rather than rely on final high-stakes exams alone”.

2. Teachers feel subject choices are restricted by funding

Nearly two-thirds of teachers – 65 per cent – said that the range of subjects they feel they can offer at key stages 4 and 5 is limited by funding and accountability pressures.

“We spend far too long teaching students how to hit the assessment objectives for each exam and don’t have time to do engaging activities,” a secondary school teacher commented, adding: “There is also too much content to fit in the time available and so you feel that you are always racing through it without time to pause and let students explore.

“There is just no time to make it engaging because we are having to race to that GCSE line with so much pressure to get good grades,” they said.

But in total, 77 per cent felt that high-stakes assessment should be used to judge schools on their performance to “some extent”.

3. Teachers want more responsibility for exams

Teachers said they felt strongly that they should be given more responsibility for assessments.

“When asked, 78 per cent of teachers said they wanted more autonomy for conducting summative assessment of their learners,” the report says.

4. Teachers want pen-and-paper and digital assessments

The report also found that over four in 10 teachers – 41 per cent – said they would like pupils to have the option of a mixture of digital and pen-and-paper assessments for final exams.

Under a third – 32 per cent – expressed preference for pen and paper alone, while 27 per cent said final exams should just be sat on-screen.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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