Monday, 1 November 2010

Scrap the targets ... says Exams Chief

Following on from demands to scrap SATS tests (e.g. by the 'Cambridge Primary Review') ... and the need to remove the target driven culture ... more leaders appear to be speaking out ...

For example the head of England's exams watchdog OfQual, Isabel Nisbet, has said that Official targets on the number of good GCSEs teenagers should be scrapped, and that the current league tables are too "simplistic".

Schools are currently measured on the proportion of pupils who achieve five GCSEs at grade C or higher, including maths and English. The new government has said it wants to overhaul the league tables and Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks parents should be given more information.

Asked what she would do if she were education secretary for a day, Ms Nisbet said: "I would get rid of the targets related to the number of passes at grade C at GCSE."

At the Cambridge Assessment conference last week she also questioned the format of league tables: "The question is, is it simplistic to measure a very small number of indicators, sometimes drawing false conclusions? I think the answer is it probably is."

Ms Nisbet, who is leaving Ofqual next year, said parents should be given more information about schools, and that most people understood there were different schools serving different communities (nb one could hypothesize why such comments have not been forthcoming sooner).

Mr Gove has said he would like to see an "English Baccalaureate" - where pupils would study five GCSEs including English, maths, a science, a language and a humanity such as geography, history, art or music.

Let's see whether a little common sense (and 21st century management practice) will prevail, with the target systems being scrapped and league tables being replaced ... and let's see whether measurement systems are instead used to support front line staff more ... to help them identify and continuously improve our children's education ... by systematically removing the 'real' barriers to learning and student development.

The dismantling of the fundamentally flawed and outdated (19th century) practices, put in place by the last Government (nb mainly Gordon Brown - hence the picture), will take a little time and the UK is suffering badly as a result of such mistakes (e.g. the cost of failure in terms of wasted investment, opportunity and  talent) ... and will the current Government turn things around or make things worse ... well we're about to find out ...!