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The English exam fiasco – August 2020

Many years ago, I helped to develop a culture of continual assessment in English schools, particularly at AS and A level, moving away from final exams and relying much more than ever before on teacher assessment, modular courses and the recognition of active learning. I am still proud of the BTEC courses a number of us helped to design and the work of the Career Academies we set up, with the aim of trying to widen young people’s pathways into higher education and employment.

Working in this way was not without its challenges – for teachers and students. It often felt like the pressure was always on – and the transition from GCSE study was sometimes a very difficult one to make. The engagement of employers in helping to design and implement courses was both immensely exciting and sometimes highly frustrating. On balance, I am certain that this approach was educationally more sound and fair to students than judging them through the lens of a set of examinations at the end of two years of study.

Michael Gove, aided by various advisors including Dominic Cummings, dismantled much, if not all, of what we created. If he had not done so, then our young people would not now be in the appalling situation they find themselves to be.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but I do find myself wishing (not for the first time) that Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings had never set foot in Sanctuary Buildings.

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