At Westminster Education Forum’s latest event on the future of assessment, Jill Duffy, OCR’s Chief Executive, set out her vision for the education sector’s priorities. Thanking teachers for their resilience and determination during the pandemic, she called for a period of stability to allow teacher and students to recover lost learning and stressed the approach to change must be one of evolution not revolution.
Jill began by putting forward priorities for change to content, not just to assessment. She highlighted areas such as diversity (and gave examples of OCR’s recent work on our History and English Literature specifications, as well as on the accessibility of our assessment materials) and climate change (including OCR’s work to promote the introduction of a new GCSE in Natural History).
In response to calls for wholescale reform of assessment, in particular the abolition of GCSEs, she acknowledged the need for reflection on what can be improved in our system and said the criteria must be what supports students. “Our core principle is that any change should have clearly evidenced benefits for young people”, Jill stated. Most of the highest-performing jurisdictions around the world have some form of high-stakes assessment at age 16. She highlighted research from Cambridge University Press & Assessment which identified this applied to 14 out of 21 jurisdictions. She recognised that the amount of assessment per GCSE and the number of courses taken by each student was high in the UK. She suggested we may need to ‘leave more room’ for non-examined learning, which would also support student wellbeing and the development of soft skills. She also proposed greater use of vocational qualifications among 14 to 16 year olds and shared feedback from teachers about the importance of these qualifications which emphasise the development of personal skills and prepare students for the world of work.
She ended by looking at the use of digital assessment. COVID has elevated calls for more widespread adoption of all things digital. Jill highlighted the digital mock exam trials with Computer Science teachers that OCR has been running and described early feedback as generally positive. The trial will help OCR to successfully transfer GCSEs online. The bigger vision for OCR and the wider Cambridge group is developing a ‘born digital’ qualification that links curriculum, teaching and learning as well as assessment.
“Today’s event,” Jill concluded, “was a welcome chance to engage in the important debate about the future of assessment and to listen to a wide range of views and experiences. My takeaway was that, regardless of everyone’s perspective, we shared the same motivation – to do what’s best for young people.”