The seventh event of our Out-of-the-Box Thinking series will explore through debate whether “Exams have had their Day” in our education system. Madeleine Holt will speak for the motion, and Richard Sheriff will speak against it.
Are standardised examinations (eg GCSEs, A Levels) the best way to test and define the abilities of a student? With techniques being developed that allow unobtrusive and more incisive assessment and enabling greatly enhanced learning environments, should we abandon this overarching and extremely stressful exam system?
Or are such exams necessary to motivate students and bring focus to student activity when there are so many distractions for today’s teenagers? After all they have been tried and tested over many decades and the proof of the pudding is that high achievers of this system have made huge contributions to society, e.g. Tony Blair, Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins.
Come along and hear experts with strongly opposing views debate this highly contentious subject. There will also be plenty of time for you to have your say.
The present system is considered by some to over-restrict what a teacher does and to perpetuate a curriculum composed of single subjects as opposed to real-life multi-faceted collaborative project solving? Does chasing grades in such exams interfere with the process of education?
But exams do enable critical comparisons to be made between students when seeking employment or university entrance. Most countries sign-up to this examination process and it is only Finland that prefers a more teacher-led assessment process. Getting rid of them could perhaps take us back to chaotic times in schools of the 1960s-1970s.
This is becoming an increasingly hot issue with many calls for a major rethink on examinations. The billion pound examination industry, politicians and the educational establishment all appear resistant to change, but parent groups and members of our world-leading educational institutes beg to differ. Getting rid of exams would likely lead to revolutionary changes in the world of education.
Speaking for the motion is Madeleine Holt, an education campaigner and film-maker. She co-founded Rescue Our Schools and set up the More than a Score alliance against SATS. Madeleine is also a founding member of the Slow Education movement. She has recently contributed to Education Forward, a collection of essays arguing for a total rethink of the English education system to equip children with the skills they need for the 21st century.
Speaking against the motion is Richard Sheriff, President of the Association of School and College Leaders, 2018-19. Richard is a National Leader of Education and has worked as an OFSTED Inspector. He is Headteacher and Director of the Red Kite Alliance, a thriving partnership of over 40 schools in the Leeds, Bradford and North Yorkshire area. Recently, Richard has become CEO of the Red Kite Learning Trust.
Seconders will be young speakers from the Great Debaters Club.