The buck stopped somewhere over there …


I was watching a session of the House of Commons Education Select Committee today about the so-called ‘GCSE English fiasco’ of last year.

Searching for the buck stop?

Searching for the buck stop?

CEOs of four awarding organisations gave their perspectives on what went wrong. The Committee also heard, uniquely, from the Welsh Education Minister.

My impression of it all?

There was plenty of buck passing that went on, mainly in the direction of Ofqual the examinations regulator in England, which wasn’t there to defend itself. I don’t feel sorry for Ofqual because it had tried passing the buck on numerous occasions before this one, including to its predecessor body. The witnesses made clear that original warnings to ‘Interim Ofqual’ in 2009 about GCSE English controlled assessment were not heeded. The conclusion now was that teacher assessment of speaking in and listening to English should be down-graded to simple recognition of a student’s basic achievement, with no unit marks at stake.

Will this produce the learning outcomes that we want? Difficult to say really.

Will we avoid future examinations glitches? I am 100% confident, unlike the act of assessing students’ learning, that we will continue to have such problems as long as politicians have an influence on the system.

Solution? Give schools and colleges genuine control of education, in partnership with each other and awarding organisations, local authorities and key interest groups, not least of which are students, parents/carers, employers and higher education.

And I would prefer this to happen at a localised level and in a strategic way if possible ….

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