Traditional exams just aren't for everyone

25th February 2011 at 00:00

As the governor of a primary school serving a deprived area and the parent of a dyslexic daughter, I read with great interest the debate on the curriculum ("Is how you learn of more than academic interest?", 18 February).

Both contributors made salient points. Matthew Taylor is right that much more focus is needed on developing learning and creative skills. Similarly, Dale Bassett points out that all children should benefit from a core academic education. However, what seems to have been overlooked is the impact of value-laden assessment methods on children's achievement. It is well accepted that we all have preferred learning styles. However, these are largely ignored in the assessment process beyond key stage 2.

Pupils less adept at written expression may struggle with traditional examinations, despite possessing good understanding and knowledge, which they may be better able to communicate creatively. Unfortunately, more value is attached to essay-style exams than verbal and practical assessments. Consequently a large proportion of otherwise intelligent individuals are disadvantaged, often losing heart and subsequently failing to reach their full academic potential.

My daughter's experience brought this home to me when she gave up her two academic A-level subjects due to repeated exam failures, despite doing well in coursework. Her confidence and self-esteem in tatters, she changed direction to take a college-based BTEC diploma in graphic design, where the course assessment methods better suit her learning style and where she feels valued and supported. But should she have had to do this?

Michael Gove must take heed, given that about 10 per cent of the population is dyslexic. We must ensure that assessment methods put learners on a level footing in the same way that teaching methods are supposed to. If we don't, social divisions will endure and our children, our economy and our society will be the poorer for it.

Julie Cappleman, Staffordshire.

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