Majority of education staff, parents and students support GCSE reform – survey

The majority of education staff, parents and students believe GCSEs need to be reformed, a survey suggests.

More than half (54%) say GCSEs need “serious reform” and 40% think they need “some tweaking” because they are not perfect, according to principals’ conference research (HMC).

The results come after the cancellation of exams for the second year in a row prompted some education officials and politicians to call on ministers to consider reforming GCSEs in the post-Covid years.

A report released by HMC, which represents hundreds of private school leaders, suggests that there is “significant concern” in the public and independent sectors that the program and assessment “are failing to meet the needs of young people. »And to develop basic skills. .

He adds that the findings suggest that the current assessment is “too focused and misused” and that exams are more successful in serving the goals of academic selection and employers than “encouraging the development of learners or to motivate engagement in education ”.

The poll – of 789 school leaders, teachers, parents, students, academic staff and other education workers – suggests that 54% think a consultation on GCSE reform should be launched “as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile, an additional 35% said the consultation should begin after “a period of consolidation of Covid-19”.

The report calls on the government to appoint a non-partisan person or organization to lead an independent consultation on widespread reform of curriculum and assessment models.

He adds that further investigation is needed into how the current education system contributes to the exclusion of different demographic groups.

The online survey, which was carried out in July, suggests that only 5% of respondents strongly agree that the current education system encourages the acquisition of skills for work.

Report author Sarah Fletcher, grandmother of St Paul’s Girls’ School and chair of HMC’s Assessment Reform Task Force, said survey respondents are clear that the education system is “lagging behind”.

Addressing the findings, she said: “In their opinion, the program is not sufficiently relevant or motivating. The assessment appears to focus more on benchmarking and university selection needs than student progression, and there is real concern about inclusion. “

Ms. Fletcher added, “There is a real appetite within the teaching community to address these issues and soon.

“The overwhelming belief is that politicians should give way to professionals, allowing review and reform to be led by those at the forefront of education – teachers, academics, researchers, welfare experts. be and young people leaving school.

“The challenges we face in the 21st century and the framework in which we work have changed beyond recognition and now we must reset the dial. “

In September, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) requested that the number of GCSE graduation exams taken during the students’ last summer at school be reduced.

Meanwhile, in July, The Times reported that former Prime Minister Sir John Major had called for reform of the examination system because he disliked GCSEs due to the “stress and tension they impose on students “.

The HMC report calls on teachers and educators to be at the heart of any assessment reform.

Richard Backhouse, President of HMC and Principal of the Berkhamsted School, said: “This report describes the clamor in the education sector to shape an education system that reflects the needs of 21st century Britain and I urge members of government to read it.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said, “We want every young person to benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum that helps them thrive and realize their potential.

“Our reformed GCSEs rigorously assess the knowledge acquired by students and meet the standards expected in countries with efficient education systems.

“They have been strengthened based on feedback from higher and further education institutions and employers to ensure that young people leave school or college prepared for work and higher education. “

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