More calls for exam system to be overhauled

Curriculum review team is warned that exams fail to capture the ‘range and depth’ of young people's learning

Emma Seith

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Scotland’s national youth work organisation has hit out at the school system’s “focus on exam results once a year” and has made a plea for the way students are assessed to be “reconsidered” so schools can “truly capture and celebrate young people’s success”.

In its submission to the review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) being carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), YouthLink Scotland says it sees the review as “a real opportunity to transform our education system”.

It acknowledges that the cancellation of exams amid the coronavirus crisis has been “extremely stressful”, but says a positive to come out of all the upheaval is the system has been forced “to consider the role of continuous assessment and professional judgement”.


Background: Scotland's 2021 exams cancelled by education secretary

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YouthLink Scotland argues there is now “a real opportunity” to reconsider whether exams are the best way to capture learning, as well as whether the school timetable could involve a wider range of experiences.  

It calls for youth work – which it says can help to close the gap and mitigate the impact of the pandemic – to be truly integrated into CfE so that personal achievement is placed on an equal footing with academic achievement “to ensure our education system works effectively for all young people”.

Exams: Plea to 'reframe what student success looks like'

It says youth workers are skilled at co-designing the curriculum with young people but in schools, despite the ambitions of CfE, “we still do not have a curriculum that is consistently and genuinely built in a collaborative manner across schools and communities”.

The submission says: “We must demonstrate to children and young people that personal learning and achievement is equally valued. Parity of esteem in relation to the different learning pathways available to young people will facilitate full implementation of CfE.”

It continues: “The current pandemic has highlighted the need for education to understand and reframe what success should look like for children and young people. The focus on exam results once a year does not effectively demonstrate the range and depth of a young person’s learning across the year.

"This year, formal education has been forced to consider the role of continuous assessment and professional judgement. Whilst for many young people the cancellation of exams was extremely stressful, this year’s experience does provide a real opportunity to reconsider what the structure of school should look like, how we timetable opportunities for young people to develop skills and capacities as well as knowledge and how we truly capture and celebrate young people’s success.”

YouthLink Scotland has dozens of members including Barnardo's Scotland, DofE Scotland, Girlguiding Scotland, Scouts Scotland and Young Scot.

Read the YouthLink Scotland submission in full here.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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