We must look beyond exams to judge success

LAWRENCE MURPHY: A worthy alternative to roasties?

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What do we want from schools? There are many answers. As a significant recipient of public money it is right that schools are influenced by public opinion and political ideology.

This government, as was the case with the last, has made a priority of ‘closing the gaps’.

That means improving the school exam results of those who are from deprived backgrounds, with additional learning needs or from disadvantaged groups.

Although the qualifications which count in measuring the gap are changing, measurement of twelve school years by exam is not.

Qualifications are important but they are not all that the nation wants from its schools. When there is a problem in society schools are blamed and teachers are expected to find a solution. However, these other parts of the educator’s role in society are not reported in league tables.

Labour talked about a report card for schools. We were to be measured in a number of ways and have a single overall grade; the idea did not get taken up by the coalition. Instead they have provided lots more statistics about schools on their website. Yet it seems that these quantitative measures still miss the qualitative aspects of what schools achieve and that society wants young people to learn.

Numbers and grades support a system focused on simple competition, one where we all benefit by having winners and losers.

We all want to be winners, or at the top of a list, but the intricacies of teaching children are not so easily ranked.

I do not think communities or employers gain from an education system which seems increasingly designed to create losers as much as winners.

Human development is complex and the context in which it takes place constantly changing. We need to think again about how we measure schools.

We need to combine students’ academic progress with development of other important characteristics such as resilience and independence.

In order to get the best education system, with more good schools, and have young people who are enthusiastic citizens able to make wise choices we must look further than the most GCSEs, or least pounds spent, as a way to judge quality.