‘Victorian-style’ exams harm children’s education

Children’s education and creativity is being damaged by Britain’s obsession with “Victorian-style” examinations, the headmaster of Eton College has warned.He has instead called for traditional pen-and-paper tests at 16 to be scrapped outside of maths and English. This is from the Telegraph…

Pupils’ creativity is being stifled by a system that still measures students’ ability by “sitting everyone down in rows in an exam hall” for several hours, said Tony Little.

He called for traditional pen-and-paper tests taken at 16 to be scrapped in all subjects other than English and maths to give students more time and space to properly develop a range of skills.

Speaking at a conference staged by the National Education Trust, Mr Little said that existing GCSE exams were increasingly outdated, particularly at a time when most pupils were expected to remain in education up to the age of 18.

The case for retaining A-levels was more powerful because they were used by universities as part of the higher education admissions process, he said.

But he insisted there was “no good reason” why students had to be assessed in “this very Victorian way” at 16.

The comments come just days after the Confederation of British Industry called for the abolition of GCSEs in their present form amid fears they promoted a “cult of the average” – failing to meet the needs of bright pupils or those who struggled the most at school.

Mr Little said: “I think we have got to stop being obsessed with sitting everyone down in rows in an exam hall for a chunk of time. Art, dance and drama utilise all kinds of creative exercises as part of the assessment process; why can’t the same thinking be applied to other subjects?”

He said schools had to be “very robust” in the assessment of literacy and numeracy as the cornerstones of all academic disciplines, but insisted the nation had to be “much more imaginative about how we structure courses and assessment in pretty much every other subject”.

“The fact is that we no longer have to do it sitting down in an exam for two or three hours,” he said. “You could envisage taking an engineering course, for example, where a group of four work together on a project and the entire group is assessed at the same time.

“This is the type of thing we should be looking at; we just don’t seem to have the wherewithal to do it.”

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