“The current qualifications system evolved for a world where school ends at 16 and a minority stay on. We can reset expectations now. Across the world, the most successful education systems expect the vast majority of young people to achieve at advanced level by the age of 18, whether in academic subjects or vocationally.” So says academy chain boss, Jon Coles, in TES
Coles argues that there is less need today for “employer-recognised qualifications” taken at age 16. The present examination system, he writes, evolved because of the need to provide qualifications for school leavers following the raising of the school-leaving age in 1972. He reminded readers that before 1972 “the majority took no examinations at all: 91% of 15-year-old school leavers passed no O level or CSE.” These statistics are a salutary reminder to those who hark back to the “golden age” of O levels. And Coles knows what he’s talking about – he used to be director general for education standards in the Department for Education (DfE).
Coles warns that “with more than 90% of young people staying on beyond 16, our approach to assessment at that age already looks anachronistic.”
Coles is correct. It is time to overhaul our examination system so it matches what the rest of the world is doing (see FAQs above for more details). But will Secretary of State, Michael Gove, and his new junior minister, Elizabeth Truss, listen to these wise words?