At Edge, we believe that a broad and balanced curriculum should equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full potential in their working and broader lives.
However, there are several constraints that currently prevents this vision from being achieved:
- First - we have a curriculum characterised as one of polar opposites - between vocational and academic.
- Secondly – our system prioritises a rigid set of high-stakes, cliff-edge exams at age 16, with all students expected to be ready for the same exam at the same age
- Thirdly – our teachers are experiencing a significant workload crisis and are having to spend hours preparing students for high-stakes exams rather than teaching for the joy of teaching and supporting learning.
- Fourthly – we have a highly competitive, marketised system focused on performance management and rewarding institutional performance in a narrow range of exams assessment approaches. But this doesn’t credit a broader skill set or reward individuals who are thoughtful team players, creative problem-solvers or excellent communicators.
In 2020, embarrassing failures like the exam results fiasco have thrown our assessment system under the spotlight. With two years of exams now cancelled, now must surely be the time for fundamental reform of our assessment system.
Edge recently responded to Pearson’s consultation on the ‘Future of Qualifications and Assessment’. We need new ways to define and measure young people’s skills and behaviours and here we set out some of our key points that we think are important to consider:
- Focusing on the 14-19 education phase, we need our curriculum and assessment system to blend together and celebrate a broader range of knowledge as well as technical and transferrable skills such as: problem solving, communication, self-management, teamwork, creativity, numeracy and digital skills
- Teachers should be given the time and space to work with staff across departments and with employers to create exciting cross-curricular lessons. For example, our Edge teacher externships offer a model for teachers to engage with local employers and integrate key learnings into their curriculum design
- Encourage a system that incentives greater collaboration (both within colleges - across subjects and faculties and more widely across local providers and employers) one that focuses on successful student destinations as a key measure of success, rather than narrow exam results
- All learners learn differently and rather than enforcing a strict linear approach, we would advocate for the system to move from being determined by ‘age’ to ‘stage’. Assessments should reflect this and become more of a progress check rather than a make or break point,
- The 14-19 phase could culminate at age 19 with a graduation or baccalaureate-style award that contains different combinations of study and experience (e.g academic qualification, technical skills, employer interaction and extracurricular activities such as outdoor pursuits, creative and cultural activities) at different levels and span the full general-vocational range.
For more information, you can click here to read our response in more detail
Edge also supports the Rethinking Assessment movement which brings together a wide coalition of state and independent schools, Multi Academy Trusts, FE Colleges, academics and employers to push for change to our old-fashioned exam system. Working with a range of organisations is key to opening up a process for debate and consensus.
We want to involve everyone with an interest in that process – including teachers and tutors, parents, employers and students themselves. To do this, we also recently held an event with Robert Halfon MP and members of the Rethinking Assessment movement to open up this complex debate – you can watch the webinar here and we look forward to holding further discussions later this year to embrace a wider range of voices and ideas.