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.