Being practical about exam requirements


All students now must have GCSE English and Maths

With the A level results out yesterday, there has been much in the press about vocational training schemes vs University etc.  This is an annual debate and discussion around exam time.

In recent years, it has been enforced for Schools and colleges that all students, regardless of their career path, must have English and Maths GCSE qualifications and therefore if they return to school or college for further studies, but without these as “passed” exams, they’ll resit them until they pass.

Being competent in English and Maths in order to go into the world of work is definitely a reasonable expectation.

BUT having a piece of paper that identifies you can write about Thomas Hardy, classify figures of speech, oxymorons and hyperbole,  or elaborate on polynomials or congruent triangles is perhaps not the most important thing in every section of the world of work.  Speaking to many organisatons, being able to communicate with colleagues and clients, the ability to problem solve or be a team player says more about the individual than the number of A* in their locker.

Changing our thinking on what we really need them to demonstrate

Maybe therefore the time has come to have an alternative means of measuring knowledge for these students.  Yes you want to be confident they can use good English to email customers; you want to ensure that it isn’t all “text” speak: you want to know that  they can work out percentage discounts; you want them to understand the basics of profit and loss…….but this is not what is measured by GCSE/A level examinations.

For these individuals, making it compulsory to attempt (on numerous occasions) something for which they have already been identified as a major stumbling block in their education, seems a waste of everyone’s time and effort.

It identifies them as persistent “failures” rather than giving them the confidence and ability to express what they do know, rather than what they don’t.

Let us hope that someone in office sees sense and thinks outside the box of examination criteria as a measure of success.


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