Exams shake-up ‘has been lost opportunity’, says private schools group chief

·2 min read
Pupils in Scotland opening their exam results  (PA Wire)
Pupils in Scotland opening their exam results (PA Wire)

The Government has squandered the opportunity for a post-pandemic shake-up of the exams system which could have taken pressure off A-level and GCSE students, a leader of a private schools group has said.

Kevin Stannard, director of innovation and learning at the Girls’ Day School Trust, a group of 25 private schools, called for radical change which would see teenagers being given their A-level results before applying for university. This would in turn take pressure off GCSE students, because their results would no longer be looked at in such detail by universities.

Currently students apply to university using predicted A-level grades and only find out if they have been successful on results day. Thousands will go through this process when they receive their results next Thursday. The exams were cancelled for two years during the pandemic and grades were based on teacher assessments, but they were held again for the first time this summer.

Mr Stannard said: “It is a real shame that we had the opportunity over the last couple of years to test other systems, but we have wasted those years.

“The Department for Education has done nothing to revise the exam system as it stood and we are just going back to the old system, which is flawed.”

Mr Stannard said if A-level students were given their grades earlier, GCSE exams could also be changed to become less “high stakes”.

This is because currently GCSEs results are looked at by universities alongside predicted A-level grades. If the grades were already known when students applied, there would be less pressure on GCSEs.

Mr Stannard said: “If you want to dial down the pressure cooker of GCSEs and replace them with basic tests of competence, which are teacher assessed, A-levels results must be moved to come out before students apply to university. I think this is where the opportunity has been lost. Only the Department for Education can make these calls and for the last couple of years it has been chaos.” Mr Stannard said A-level exams could be taken slightly earlier so results could be given earlier and then applications to university made in an “intense few months”, in time for term to start in October.

He said this could be fairer on children at less well-performing schools, who may not be encouraged to apply to top universities but then receive excellent A-level grades.