Exams, Damn Exams and Targets.

The need to monitor key performance indicators in the learning progress of a child’s secondary education has spawned so many tests and exams the practice is now overwhelming the learning process itself.

The examination merry-go-round has left many children, parents, teaching resources and the examination boards themselves in a spin.  Overstretched, the exam bodies have made mistakes in setting exams and are guilty of inconsistencies in marking.

The effect on secondary schools and children is huge.  GCSE grades needed to support “A” levels and subsequent university places have been falsely assessed and either wrecked chances or subjected children to undeserved psychological trauma.

The solution may not be that easy to find.  This chaotic situation is virtually ingrained in the learning process.  Any change would take years to prove but Michael Gove, Educational Secretary of State plans to scrap mid-course or modular exams in GCSE from next year.  Such a bold move may not be the solution according to Kenneth Durham, Headteacher of University College School who said “The exam system has become a monster”. He is also concerned the proposed review of GCSE’s would not mean fewer exams but a concentration of the exams at the end of the course.

“A” level exams would change and put the focus on content and structure rather than the exam assessment which is where the problem lies.  In 2010 a staggering 171,700 requests were made to exam boards to check or re-mark children’s GCSE and A level exam papers.  The subsequent investigation revealed large variations between exam boards is common subject areas.
The confidence we must instil in children to continue to learn competently to pursue further education and a rewarding career is being lost. The pressure on children to succeed is becoming unbearable and echoed in the stress and frustration felt by teachers. Michael Gove’s proposal on exam structures seems like another treatment for the symptoms that may not cure the disease.