The first topic we want to discuss is ‘The Purpose of Education’ which we believe is fundamental in steering the future of education policy in the right direction. We have posed a series of questions to stimulate discussion on this topic however, we want you to let us have your views. Please suggest a debate on this first topic by leaving your comments in the box on the right, or go to the debate page to see the topics already being discussed.

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    2. 16
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    The assessment debate to a degree reflects the curriculum debate, as there tends to be an affinity between knowledge-based curriculum and formal tests versus a skills-based curriculum and more flexible approaches to assessment. But are students tested too frequently, especially as the participation age rises to 18? You will need to log in to vote and comment.

    As in the curriculum debate, those who place great store by knowledge tend to say that exams should test the acquisition and application of that knowledge through formal tests and exams.

    Those favouring more skills-based learning argue for a broader and more flexible approach to assessment. They tend to support assessment that enables students to demonstrate creative, planning and reasoning skills alongside their knowledge of a particular subject.

    There is also the issue about the number and importance of exams. Some people say that too many exams encourages teaching to the test, but others argue that standardized tests are a passport of achievement for children and enable parents and policy makers to hold schools to account.

    Finally there is the issue of the ‘school leaving age’. As young people are required to stay in some kind of education or training until age 18, are tests at 16 still relevant?

    What are your views? Register or login and let us know what you think. Here are a couple of questions you might like to consider:

    • Are students in England tested too frequently? If so, which tests should go and how can accountability be maintained?
    • Is redesigning GCSEs the right thing to do or should the system be moving to focusing on assessment at 18?
    Phase I: The purpose of education
    Total replies: 21 Last comment: 25 Oct 18
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Agree (4)

Neutral (16)

Disagree (1)


    I believe both type of assesment are very important.It only depends on what you are trying to do.

    Comment on this Comment made: 25 OCT 2018

    David Allsop, School/college leader

    There is a need for the end-users of our education system to have confidence in the examination system in order for them to make judgements about people based upon exams. Any exam is simply a way of ranking students. A 'B' grade is of no use to anybody unless others get 'A' or 'C' etc. However, exams can only measure a small skill and knowledge set. We focus too much on written exams rather than on valuing other skills which are much more useful in the workplace. We do this because it is easier to measure such things. The old adage of we value those things that we can measure rather than measuring those things that we value holds true.
    The debate about the frequency of testing is less important than a debate about the quality of the testing and the information that testing provides.

    Comment on this Comment made: 05 NOV 2013

    anna, School/college leader

    As the old saying goes, you don't make a pig fatter by constantly weighing it. Constant testing is demoralising for students who don't perform well in exams and forces teachers to cram the curriculum into a reduced timescale to allow for 'revision' / 'study leave'. The current examination regime tests knowledge retention and literary hoop jumping. It shows very little about a student's understanding or ability to reason. It disadvantages students who may be excellent verbally but have difficulties with writing - extra time is only of limited value for severely dyslexic students wrestling with ordering their thoughts in a way that fits exam mark schemes; a verbal discussion, however, would reveal huge amounts about their understanding.

    Comment on this Comment made: 04 NOV 2013

    Rosalind Scott, School/college leader

    Certainly students are tested too frequently and the tests are used to meet the requirements of the school in reporting to the government. We need to be brave and self authorise to test students when they are ready and when they will benefit.

    Comment on this Comment made: 21 OCT 2013

    Tracy-Jane Broad, Parent

    Too many tests and controlled assessments deny kids and their families a life for those two years. Controlled assessments are so open to cheating!

    Comment on this Comment made: 11 OCT 2013

    Kristian Still, School/college leader

    It would appear that the question narrative has already been exceeded by the responses so far; the purpose of education, curriculum design, assessment mode, accountability and accessibility.

    Without question a great debate, probably a series of great debates?

    Comment on this Comment made: 28 SEP 2013

    Jessica Austin-Burdett, Teacher/other staff

    We need to consider the purpose of education and look at research into what type of assessment is the most effective, feedback and students engagement and understanding should be at the core of the assessment process, as should a reflection of teacher professionalism and trust, not everything should be externally set and assessed.

    Comment on this Comment made: 26 SEP 2013

    Judy McBlain, Education stakeholder

    I think that the assessment system should enable students to demonstrate what they can do. I am disappointed that modular GCSE courses, and the resit opportunities within those courses, have been withdrawn. We should be assessing the ability of students to utilise newly acquired skills and knowledge, rather than their ability to remember something that was taught some time ago.

    Comment on this Comment made: 23 SEP 2013

    Mike Griffiths, School/college leader

    Not too frequent - but not right sort. Too much external assessment. And no - we don't want to scrap external exams at 16, since for most youngsters this is still the age where there is a significant transition from school to sixth form or to college or another 6th form or apprenticeship or.... We need to be accountable at 16.

    Comment on this Comment made: 22 SEP 2013

    Alan Gurbutt, Parent

    Assessment techniques need to enable pupils to demonstrate a range of skills and qualities beyond rote and examinations. We shouldn’t be returning to the past where education was inaccessible to those with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. In light of the recent return to linear examinations, unless there is funding for School Action and School Action Plus it is likely pupils’ specific difficulties will be overlooked in the push for meeting targets. Moreover, children’s specific difficulties need to be detected early, and, correctly assessed, so that reasonable adjustments can be made for examinations, otherwise education runs the risk of widening the gap (strong correlation between low literacy and poverty).

    Comment on this Comment made: 20 SEP 2013

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