Debate in the national media about the future of exams has intensified in recent weeks, prompted by the impact of lockdown on exams and on the well-being of our young people.
We’ve seen a growing number of pithy and thought-provoking ideas about what should be done, but one thing is striking – there is a wide array of views, but much less system wide thinking in a system where one change inevitably leads to another. And we have heard from experts and opinion-leaders, but much less from parents, employers, teachers and learners themselves.
Their views matter because how learning is recognised is a high stakes endeavour that exists to serve the public good. This is why the consultation we are launching today is important. We will be reaching out everyone with a stake in the UK’s education system to get their views.
COVID-19 has been a catalyst in the debate, but growing learner and parental demand for an education that delivers lifelong benefits and an accelerating shift to a digital economy, are making more people ask, how can our qualifications system encourage and recognise the knowledge and skills that matter most, and how can we define its success in more inclusive terms?
Our national consultation will focus on three broad areas:
- Conditions and Environment: exploring and how wider economic, technological, and societal trends are changing what people need to know and be able to do. With AI positioned to take on a more operational role in the workplace of the future, how do we assess both human and technical skills?
- Purpose and Value: considering the role that education within the 14-19 phase should play in helping develop confident and well-rounded learners and supporting their life aspirations.
- Trust and Equity: exploring issues around fairness and coherence in the system to maintain public confidence in qualifications and assessment, and to ensure that the system serves diversity, equity and inclusion.
Clearly, this is an ambitious and challenging project. We recognise that while we work across a broad landscape in education, we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we are thankful for the contributions of our expert panel of esteemed voices to help guide the project, provide independent validation and to test and challenge us (see below).
The UK's education system is amongst the best in the world. Our curriculum, qualifications and assessment are widely recognised, valued and adopted by countries around the world. That is the starting point for this work, and we hope this project will provide a valuable contribution to the debate.
The next step will see us publish the findings of the consultation in an interim report in late spring, and I’m looking forward to providing a further update then. And in the meantime, do please take the time to participate. We want to hear your views on these important questions.