Assessment: should we keep the public in the dark?


My last post was about how the value of qualifications is irrelevant. It was deliberately provocative (as was the previous one about the physical laws of education) given the type of debate that had been going on within the UK’s Parliament and media over the previous few days. Facts were being used to bolster arguments rather than focus on potential outcomes and resulting benefits in educational terms.

There have been sensible blog posts to counter the above tendency, so in the interests of a more objective view here is my final post on the topic of assessment, which underlies all of the discourse.

I was fortunate enough to attend a high level Chatham-house style meeting on assessment at age 16 in the week before the Daily Mail’s leak of Michael Gove’s plans for GCSE reform. I am not allowed to disclose who attended the meeting, but let’s just say there was a selection of the great and the good on assessment in education in the UK (though with one major omission to my mind). My own sense of the general view at the meeting was that, in an era where the end of compulsory education in England is moving from age 16 to age 18, examinations at age 16 are becoming more questionable as a national exercise.

As I write this post I am listening to the evidence session back in March his year to the House of Commons Education Select Committee by Glenys Stacey, CEO of Ofqual, the qualifications and examinations regulator in England and limited parts of Northern Ireland, and the English Schools Minister, Nick Gibb. This was also a well-informed and stimulating discussion, following on from other good evidence sessions, and we all await eagerly the Committee’s report on its inquiry into 15-19 examinations due out just after midnight this Monday. It will be interesting to see how it differs from the leaked Gove paper, especially on the role of awarding bodies, and this raises separate questions about how Ministers and senior parliamentarians are working together (or not) on the education policy debate.

So while there is private discussion by real experts, there is also publicly available intelligent discourse on issues do with assessment in education. But the big question is: does the public need to be able to understand the nuances of this policy conversation?

My personal position on this one has probably changed from one of complete transparency, as a public right, to one of more carefully presented messages to audiences who have the time and inclination to listen. This is where I think independent knowledge brokers such as my business behr outcomes can play a role. We try to interpret the facts based on our knowledge and experience and without any type of ‘political’ pressure to bear on us, and then do our best to ensure that these facts inform the outcomes and so produce real benefits (if these are achievable) – much like many neutral academics and media commentators, as well as some think tanks and learned bodies.

Should we keep the public in the dark about assessment? No, not those who want to engage with it in an educated way. How do we maximise this category of person? By ensuring that we have a fit-for-purpose education system, which is not driven by perverse incentives linked to politics and accountability.

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2 thoughts on “Assessment: should we keep the public in the dark?

  1. Pingback: If Eton forms a strategic education partnership then no more exams at 16 for local princes « behrfacts

  2. Pingback: Where does school accountability really lie? « behrfacts

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