Jun 11, 2023Liked by Joshi Herrmann

This is a good article, and addresses a lot of the issues that schools face. However, one question that hasn't been considered is whether the current system is even the best way of measuring success? There are other education systems around the world that don't have anywhere near as many tests or exams, especially not in primary school. Are students who get high grades proving they have learned things? Yes, but they're also proving they've learned how to be good at answering exam style questions. When I was teaching in Greater Manchester (Secondary English) a lot of time had to be dedicated to teaching young people how to understand exam questions and what they're actually asking them to do, and how to structure their answers to them. E.g. "For paper 2 questions you'll need to follow this kind of paragraph structure, and include these things, but for this other paper you'll need to...".

There are a lot of young people who do really well when their success is measured during internal course work throughout the year, but who really struggle with exams. Often people with executive functioning disorders like ADHD will be in this camp. Once they start employment they'll do okay because it's very rare any job will require you to memorise everything you've learnt over a year and test you on it all in one go. You're much more likely to be working on a project by project basis, open book. But the current system would see them as someone who hasn't attained because they didn't do well in exams.

Measuring progress between SATs in year 6 and GCSE results in year 11 has always seemed like a wild way to measure achievement to me. So much can happen between those years. Someone who did well in their SATs might experience all sorts of hardships in secondary school, like home issues, bullying, mental health issues, friendship and relationship issues, health issues, drugs and alcohol, etc. They might also simply become disengaged with education, stop caring, and stop trying. The article rightly points out that schools are often expected to do more than just teach, as they often need to support young people through a lot of stuff outside the classroom. Saying, "well we expect to see more progress based on where they were in year 6" doesn't take any of this into account. Have they proven they've learnt more skills and knowledge by the end of the year than they did at the start? Surely that's more useful.

Even the choice to have success in English and Maths be a prominent indicator of how well schools are doing is just that - a choice - and other choices can be made. Many workplaces seek out employees who have good people skills / ability to work well in a group, emotional intelligence, confidence in speaking, ability to think on their feet, and creativity. All skills you practise every lesson in Drama, alongside similar skills to an English classroom such as reading and analysing plays, and writing your own. And yet many primary schools don't have Drama as part of the curriculum, and many secondary schools don't value it. Two subjects where young people are analysing and writing about Shakespeare and Blood Brothers, but being good at one is seen as a bigger indicator of success than being good at the other.

There are pros and cons to every way of doing things, but we shouldn't just accept that exam results are the main way to tell if young people are getting a good education.

I do understand that we can only work with the data we have though, so don't have any issue with the writer looking at what we do have. I just wish the system as a whole was less focused on creating these data points as it leads to more tests, and more teaching to the test.

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So many great points in this comment, somehow I missed it on the weekend. Personally I agree that we over-test kids and I wish our education system was more holistic. However, given that we do all these tests in the same way across the country, we would surely want to see GM kids doing well compared to their peers in London rather than falling behind. I think that's what the piece is showing. But I think some of your points are fascinating food for thought for our future pieces in this series.

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