Dame Alison Peacock is chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching writes in The Guardian. The long-awaited GCSE results are here. The period leading up to GCSE, A-Level and BTec examination results days is always filled with anticipation – for students, parents, teachers and school leaders alike.
This year in GCSE maths, English literature and English language there is also a sense of uncertainty for the teachers and students who have worked hard over the past two years to assimilate the requirements of the new examinations.
On GCSE results day, it is of course tempting to allow public examinations to set the tone for what we think of as assessment – something high-stakes, summative, and providing a measure of students’ achievement – and with it, in many cases, providing an accountability measure for schools. Headlines will focus on winners and losers, but it is important not to forget the journey towards these tests.
Teachers need access to the best possible professional learning and resources. This is more than lesson plans and schemes of work: teachers need high-quality learning opportunities, structured professional development and access to high-quality education research. This should include both subject-specific and broader opportunities – but in every case, teachers need to see what works elsewhere and have the confidence and skills to use their professional judgment in applying the findings in their own setting.
In the constant drive for improvement, there is inevitably a drive for change. It is important to remember that as an education system we can take the time to develop, pilot, revise and improve our approaches to teaching and learning, but for most students this will be their one chance go through these final exams, and this means there is immense responsibility on teachers to do the best that they can. They can only do this by drawing on the best available evidence about what works in their context and for their pupils, by sharing and developing their practice, by constantly reflecting and evaluating their impact.
The GCSE results achieved by young people will determine their next steps. Future qualification routes beyond GCSE will be taught by colleagues also determined to provide them with the best possible opportunities for success. We should recognise and celebrate the importance of our teachers and to support their relentless endeavours to meet the demands of government and wider society for increasingly high standards of attainment and achievement.
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