Who Put the Ass in Assessment? Exams vs Education.

Martin Robinson via @SurrealAnarchy writing in the words that I have been trying to find through my thoughts in THIS Education Blog.
It explains about the problem with exams. Passing an exam does not necessarily give you the skills to operate effectively in life or in the workplace. An exam will demonstrate good memory skills, but does it really make you good at a subject or give you a real ability to be able to do something well?
For me education is about the curriculum being provided and how young people are challenged.
My thoughts are that this blog is based around the big question in education right now and how we should be applying education to the real world.
Enjoy, I hope it will make you think…



“You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”

If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.” Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist

We suppose that if pupils work under the direction of their teachers they will be well educated and that exam assessment will reflect the qualities inherent in the child, his teacher, and the institution he attends. Exams should be the cherry on top of the trifle of education, a celebration of learning rather than a precise calibration. Amanda Spielman…

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An Open Letter To A 16-19 Year Old

Dear 16-19 Year Old.

Let me start by congratulating you on completing another year of education. I have been in your position and have also now worked in education for 12 years. I know how much harder each year becomes as you advance along your educational journey. I am writing this letter to give you 4 pieces of advice. As I write this I am thinking about the advice that I want to give to my 16-19 year old niece. I am thinking ahead about her future career and the things that I know now as a (nearly) 40 year old that are needed for the journey of life. I am also thinking about the advice I would like to have been given when I was a 16-19 year old. So stick with me as I am trying to think like a 16-19 year old rather than an uncle. I also realise that I would not want to be reading lots of information so I will try and make this as brief as possible.

Advice 1

Go out and enjoy yourself, relax, do what you enjoy doing but keep safe this summer. It is definitely deserved and you should always make time to relax, enjoy life and recharge your batteries. Life is very short (it might not feel like that now, but it is), so take every opportunity to enjoy being with friends, family and again spending time doing what you really look forward to doing.

Advice 2

Think about your future. Unfortunately the education system may be letting you down right now. If you are in one of the best schools/colleges (and I am NOT talking about OFSTED ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’) you will have acquired knowledge and been prepared fully for any examinations you will have taken. More importantly they will have helped you to develop these important skills, as identified by UK employers and educational representatives in a recent research study:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time and self-management
  • Decision-making and initiative-taking
  • Taking responsibility

These skills are identified as the most sought after by employers in young people when you are applying for work, getting promoted or starting out in your career. You will also need to have literacy and numeracy skills and in many cases good knowledge of a sector or profession. These are what schools and colleges are directed at providing you with through GCSEs, BTECs or other approved qualifications. The problem is that some, due to the intense focus on exams, progress and core subjects have neglected to help you develop what you really need for life and the workplace. Don’t blame your school or college. They are doing what they have to do in order to meet government targets. Unfortunately, unless your school or college is prepared to do it differently, you will have only received part of what you need to be fully prepared for life and the workplace.

Advice 3

You may have already recognised that you have not had the opportunity to develop these skills. It could also be that an older adult has told you that ‘you need to be more mature’ or you have been told to ‘grow up’ or ‘take responsibility’, The chances are that they are referring to the development needed in some or all of these skills.

Don’t worry though, you can do something about it yourself. This is what you could do;

  • Get a part time job. Just a few hours a week during the summer holidays as this will develop your communication and interpersonal skills. This will also serve the purpose of developing your character for a professional environment and developing time and self management skills.
  • Taking part in team sports will also help with communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills.
  • You may be working with a group of friends to plan a holiday. That may also help to develop your communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills.
  • You may be a young leader within a group i.e. scouts, guides, youth and so having this responsibility will help you with your decision making and initiative taking.
  • When you take part in any of these activities you should start thinking about creating your CV around these skills. Giving specific, and the best, examples of each skill and how you are pro-actively developing these. I guarantee you, as someone who has employed people in the past, that this will put you head and shoulders above the competition who just have a list of qualifications.

Advice 4

You could of course decide that you do not want to do these things. That is your right, you are a young adult and that is your prerogative to make these decisions. Just remember though, and I take a quote from a Spiderman film “With great power comes great responsibility“. What I mean by this is that you have the power now to make a difference to your own life and your future. To get ahead of others in a very competitive job and career market in the 21st Century, you need to take responsibility for developing your skills. If you choose not to, then do not blame others as you are the only person that is responsible for your own destiny. Go out there and make it happen!

I will end this letter with one final thought recently said by James Caan from TV’s Dragons’ Den. He said that he would recruit, on interview, a person with good soft skills over someone with a degree if they did not have those qualities.

I wish you all the very best for your future.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Lewis (@Garethlewis76)

Featured Image: http://www.atelier.net/en/trends/articles/mozilla-open-badge-project-recognises-informally-acquired-skills

Lies, Damned Lies, and Educational Statistics

A really fascinating read…
I would recommend that every teacher should take at least 10-15 minutes to read this. It gives a different perspective when analysing the data and outcomes of your students.

Disappointed Idealist

One week till the well-deserved summer break, and I hope all fellow teachers get the opportunity to recharge. Summer does, of course, contain the two results days, which secondary teachers now look forward to with as much anxiety and trepidation as the students. Not least because their pay and career prospects now depend at least in part on the performance on one particular day of a group of largely unpredictable teenagers!

However, I’d go further : their pay and career also depends not just on the actual results of those teenagers, but on the ability of school “leaders” to understand and use data. I don’t know which is more terrifying.

This blog has two parts. The first part recounts a couple of stories of how, in our targets-and-results-obsessive education culture, statistics based on small sample sizes (like your class) can be desperately misleading, and offers a way in which you can defend…

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Education: Curriculum Reform Not Just Exam Reform!

Source of featured imagehttps://sta.uwi.edu/pelican/archives/issue9/article5.asp

McDonald’s along with several organisations from the world of business and education have taken part in a public consultation about producing a plan for recognising, developing and measuring soft skills at every stage of education and work. The ‘Backing Soft Skills’ consultation report can be seen via this link McDs-Backing-Soft-Skills which was released on the 1st July.

THIS blog is about why I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. Several of my comments have been used within the conclusions document produced by McDonald’s in preparation for the final consultation report. This document was emailed to with me in May. It can be seen via this link Backing Soft Skills – Conclusions of McDonald’s Stakeholder Consultation and Roundtable

I would like to see that this consultation is used as part of a movement to have a more balanced educational curriculum that involves academic, vocational and skills based learning having equal standing. I am not on my own in my thinking! Vocational and skills learning is being called for as part of a broad educational curriculum throughout business and education organisations.

The first piece of joined up thinking is through the McDonald’s consultation where 4 recommendations have been made;

1) Create a framework for defining, developing and assessing (formally and informally) at every stage of education and work.

2) Embed Soft Skills into education and work.

3) Improve links between business, education, JobCentre Plus and the youth and voluntary sectors.

4) Encourage government departments to join up more.

The second piece of joined up thinking came on the 19th June when the ASCL published a response by General Secretary Brian Lightman to a speech made by John Cridland (CBI Director General) where he stated;

“We agree with John Cridland that the education system needs curriculum reform and not just exam reform. He calls for the creativity of teachers to be unleashed to put in place a curriculum for 14-18 year olds which has the space for a personalised approach mixing key academic and vocational options.

“ASCL proposes that review of the core curriculum should take place only once in the course of any parliament and be the responsibility of a Commission made up of school leaders, governors, teachers, parents, industry and politicians. Beyond that core curriculum schools would determine their own curriculum, giving greater room for creativity and innovation.

“We also agree with Mr Cridland that an overhaul of careers advice is needed. This is an under-funded area, and yet it is a crucial element in ensuring young people are prepared for life.

“Mr Cridland calls for education to be everyone’s business. That is right. It is vital to the future of the country and everybody is a stakeholder.

“We welcome the commitment employers have been showing to work with schools.”


THIS is why a broad and balanced curriculum is important. It has been reported that the lack of skills in the UK work force costs business about £88 billion per year. Furthermore it is stopping people of all ages being able to get jobs or be promoted. The worst affected are young people coming straight out of education.

For me the whole point of education is to be work ready and to have the skills to be an effective citizen. Academic skills are very important too. I have always struggled with memory recall and wish that I could remember things for longer. That however may be an issue created by the exam system in itself. I seem to be able to store information for a week or so, then it just goes! Maybe that is because of the revision style I was encouraged to adopt to make sure that I was ready to pass the exams that I did take?

THIS is what has been missed by the current government (and past government over the last 5 years). In my opinion they have concentrated so much on exam reform and narrowing the curriculum choice, that they have missed the real point of education.

I have produced a few blogs suggesting how the educational curriculum could be broadened and reformed. This mainly builds on ideas produced by others. One in particular titled ‘A Different Baccalaureate Option For Soft Skills‘ explains how the new Welsh Bacc aims to address a more balanced curriculum. This would include a core suite of academic subjects, optional vocational subjects and a skills challenge certificate. A more recent blog titled ‘A National Baccalaureate‘ is also based on curriculum reform. The ‘Nat Bacc’ is currently being developed by a group of influential Headteachers in England who seem to be heading in a similar direction to the Welsh Bacc.

To reiterate; in my opinion education is about producing young people who are ready to have full and enriched lives in the modern world. If we are not creating THIS type of education curriculum then what is the point of THIS Education that we are providing?



Time to say “No”?

THIS blog by Love Learning is exactly what my blog site ‘thiseducationblog’ is set up for. My aim is to raise awareness, discuss, advise on learning ideas and to lobby for political change in education.

I have also been interviewed in a podcast for ‘Ideas in Education’. This can be found through this link below. I specifically discuss the points in the Love Learning blog. I also discuss ways that alternative testing can be carried out.

A couple of my blogs more specifically related to the Love Learning blog include…

Thank you Debra for highlighting this shared concern in education.

Love Learning....

I was interviewed for the radio yesterday. The call came through just as I was about to pop out for the evening and so I don’t remember which station it was. But the subject was a report issued yesterday claiming that business leaders felt that 16-18 year olds were ill prepared for the world of work. It’s a story we hear frequently, often misreported, criticising young people for poor literacy and numeracy skills, poor interpersonal skills and a lack of creativity and initiative.

The report only looked at entry level employees who had chosen not to go to University. This very definition alone is problematic in that every focus in government policy over the past five years has been done with an almost blinkered and single minded aim to get kids into universities, preferably Russell Group ones. The very fact that some children are resisting this pathway means they have…

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