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  • Our long-term commitments to help raise standards and build confidence in UK exams

    We’ve published wide-ranging recommendations in a report that sets out the part we hope to play in building confidence in Britain’s examination system.

    The report forms part of Pearson’s response to the findings of its “Leading on Standards” consultation which launched in January this year to seek the views of students, teachers, parents, higher education and employers on the future of the examinations system.

    The report offers new ways to ensure that the standards debate remains at the centre of education thinking in the UK. Pearson is making a series of commitments for action in support of this, including:

    • A five yearly, independent and fundamental Review of Educational Ambition which will ensure the British examination system is fit for purpose;
    • Enhanced and accredited training and recognition for Pearson examiners through a strategic partnership with the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors and University of Durham;
    • A new generation of A levels which set the bar higher, and encourage deeper learning; 
    • Independent validation of skills at age 18 in partnership with employers, higher education and other relevant experts.

    The report also recommends that teachers are better supported to assess student progress in their classroom rather than in the exam hall. It argues that focus on quantity of exams with students taking large numbers of GCSE’s should be replaced by a more balanced approach to ensure students are equipped for life through learning experiences which are shaped, valued and accredited by higher education and employers.

    The report will be launched this evening at Skinners Academy in North London, with representatives from higher education, employers, teachers, parents and students taking part in a panel debate on exams and education.

    Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said:

    “Setting educational expectations high – both for students and those of us who seek to support their learning - is fundamental to getting standards right. Our aspirations and actions need to help build a culture of ambition in British education, shifting mind sets from meeting to exceeding expectations.

    “Through these actions and others, we want to work with partners across education to help re-instil confidence in the British examination system, and ensure that the knowledge children acquire during their time at school truly endures and serves them throughout their lives.

    “We are making this series of commitments because we know we have an important role and responsibility, but we can't do it alone. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with all those with a role in British education to raise standards and ensure high-quality outcomes.

    “Too much focus on exams risks undermining the broader purpose of education. By acting on the commitments outlined in the report we believe we can help to build a system that fosters a culture which emphasises learning more, rather than simply testing more.

    “Young people want to be tested in a way that is more appropriate for the world they live in. We need to ensure the education system is dynamic and ready to respond to changing skills and needs. But it’s not enough to look ahead to a fresh start. We need to rebuild confidence in the way examinations are run, where awarding bodies can be trusted to uphold and drive the highest standards.”

    1. The Report makes eight commitments. Pearson will:

    • commit to fund a Review of Educational Ambition
    • seek to build confidence through greater transparency
    • recognise and grow the expertise of our examining workforce
    • invest to build assessment skills in the classroom
    • think beyond exams to encourage more rounded learning 
    • create a New Generation of A levels
    • exercise our influence as an awarding organisation and publisher to reinforce broad learning
    • support accountability methods that better represent the concerns of parents

    2. The full findings and details of the recommendations can be found at www.leadingonstandards.com

    3. The consultation was launched on January 31st. Responses were sought via the online document as well as through a series of seminars held in conjunction with the think tank Reform which represented 75 organisations from across education and business.

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  • Our response to the Ofqual report on exam board seminars

    Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, has given our perspective on Ofqual’s report, Exam Board Seminars.

    Rod said:

    “We have always made clear that we believe it is essential that teachers are given support to deliver qualifications, to enable them to give guidance to their students.

    “Events of the past six months have however demonstrated the risks associated with this. We have already taken strong action to ensure that the information shared through events and other channels is always appropriate. Many of our events will be online, and all will be recorded, to enable a high degree of transparency.

    “These new measures are also reflected in the guidance issued by Ofqual today.”

    read more
  • Leading on standards: how to make our exam system the best in the world

    For the last few months, we’ve been running a consultation on ways to restore confidence in exams, putting standards and quality front and centre. 

    It is a debate central to Edexcel, one of the UK’s leading examination bodies, and therefore to Pearson, as its parent company.

    In January, Pearson launched the consultation ‘Leading on Standards’ to begin working out the best way to move forward.

    The consultation explores a number of ways to build confidence in the UK’s examination system. We asked six questions we believe are key to ensuring the examination system defends high standards:

    • How best to set world leading standards?
    • How best to define and protect a new gold standard? 
    • Should assessment be a profession? 
    • How best to share and use data to drive system wide improvement? 
    • How best to create a curriculum with a balance of stretch and mastery? 
    • How best to measure with more meaning?

    As part of this consultation process, we hosted five seminars with a wide range of influential stakeholders in education, representing 75 organisations, and moderated by the think tank Reform. They brought together employers; higher education professionals; headteachers, college principals and senior teachers; parents and students; and the policy community including Government and regulators.

    We carried out this exercise because we believe that a robust and rigorous qualifications system is an essential part, although not the only important one, of Britain’s world-class education system. Pearson has been involved in education for over one hundred years, and we want our exams to help raise the standard of education that every single child receives.

    We’ve been digesting the results of those conversations, talking to experts, and listening to what schools, teachers and pupils themselves think. Pearson will shortly be publishing our conclusions, and sharing more information with the education community about how we believe we can make real improvements to the system’s credibility, and improve confidence in our teachers and examiners.

    Find out more about Leading on Standards

    read more
  • Our comment on the Ofqual review into text books

    We had this to say on Ofqual’s review into exam textbooks, which suggested that they are too focused on preparing for exams over subject content.

    A Pearson spokesperson said:

    “Pearson looks forward to engaging with Ofqual’s review.

    “We believe strongly that aligning curriculum and teaching and learning resources is important and enables the best quality of learning. That is why we work closely with both our own publishing imprints and other third party publishers to develop materials of the highest quality which support this goal. This is consistent with best practice in the rest of the world and includes making best use of new technology.

    “We recognise that we should do everything we can to promote choice of high quality resources for teachers and learners and uphold the integrity of high stakes assessments. Pearson has robust conflict of interest processes and work with a full range publishers, not just our own imprints.

    “In addition, our textbooks are changing to reflect increasingly digital learning environments, which enable them to be tailored to meet the individual needs of each learner. This will support learners to explore their subject in ever greater depth.

    “The report highlights concern that exam-endorsed textbooks are sometimes written by chief examiners. Pearson has been reviewing its processes and has decided we will no longer allow Senior Examiners to write resources to support specifications that they examine.”

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  • Pearson to develop frameworks for OECD's PISA student assessment for 2015

    Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has been chosen to develop the frameworks for the OECD’s landmark PISA educational assessment in 2015.

    The PISA assessment is widely recognised as the benchmark for measuring the improvement of education systems worldwide. 74 countries/economies participated in the 2009 test.

    In 2015, PISA’s main focus will be testing the scientific literacy of students around the world. The test will feature significant new elements:

    • A new Collaborative Problem Solving assessment will be added, in recognition of the ways young people will have to learn and work throughout their lives. Pearson will develop this new domain for PISA
    • Greater use of computer-based testing

    Pearson will also provide advice to the PISA study on the benefits, opportunities and implications of implementing computer adaptive testing for PISA in future.

    Pearson International chief executive John Fallon said:

    “High quality education is vital to a nation's economic development and social well-being - and PISA is a key benchmark by which nations can measure their own progress and learn from each other. So we are thrilled to have the chance to work with the OECD and academic communities around the world to develop the 2015 test.

    “We are committed to developing a global benchmark that, through assessing a wider range of skills and making better use of technology, will be even more relevant to helping countries prosper in an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy."

    Head of the PISA programme at the OECD Andreas Schleicher said:

    “PISA 2015 has the potential to be the start of a new phase of our international assessments. We need to make much smarter use of technology in how we test young people, and we need to assess problem-solving abilities as governments around the world seek to equip young people with the skills they need for life and employment.

    “Pearson have put forward an ambitious strategy to support the OECD and member governments in creating a global benchmark for education.”

    Notes on this story

    1. The OECD’s PISA test (www.pisa.oecd.org) is widely recognised as the benchmark for measuring the improvement of education systems worldwide. 74 countries/economies participated in the 2009 test representing around 87% of the world’s economy. Representative samples of students are selected at age 15 in each country in order to provide consistency across borders and regions.

      The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (www.oecd.org) exists to promote policies that improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
    2. Pearson (www.pearson.com) is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to teachers and students of all ages. From pre-school to higher education and professional education, our curriculum materials, digital learning tools and testing programmes help to educate more than 100 million people worldwide.

      Together with the OECD, Pearson has formed international panels of experts in science, collaborative problem solving, mathematics and reading to define the competencies, understanding and reasoning that students should be tested on in 2015, involving academics from thirteen different countries representing a spread across five continents.
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For enquiries regarding GCSEs, A levels and Key Stage 2 tests please contact:

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