Paul Steer, OCR Director of Policy and Strategy, on measuring how our education system performs.
The recent Education Select Committee inquiry into the Purpose and Quality of Education asked for new metrics for measuring how our education system performs. While existing metrics are hotly contested, here are a few others to consider:
Metric 1: Happiness
The Office for National Statistics already looks at this metric and, according to their last National Wellbeing report, 8 out of 10 children are relatively happy with their school. Conversely, an NUT report in 2015 on ‘exam factories’ warned of the potential negative impact of exam pressure on school pupils. All of us in the education system have a responsibility to monitor the effects of an increasingly high stakes accountability system on our young people. And what about a metric to measure teacher happiness as well?
Metric 2: Personal wellbeing
Concepts like personal wellbeing – or ‘moral seriousness’ – are also potential metrics. Positive development of the child features strongly in the new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework. This includes behaviours such as: ‘pride in achievement... self-confidence... self- awareness... management of feelings and behaviour... relating to others’. It’s great that Ofsted already judges how schools develop ‘wellbeing’. Why are inspectors so often seen as data junkies obsessed with narrow attainment measures?
Metric 3: Full cost benefit analysis
Apprenticeships would contribute £34 billion to the UK economy in 2015 according to a 2014 SFA report on their economic impact. The ratio of benefits to costs of apprenticeships was stated as £21 for the national economy for each £1 of public money spent. Shouldn’t we apply a similar formula to, say, full-time vocational courses in FE? This may not be a flagship policy area, but it’s where the big numbers of students are and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
Metric 4: Employability
According to the CBI’s Skills Survey (2015), ‘by far the most important factors employers weigh up when recruiting school and college leavers are attitudes (85%) and aptitudes (58%). These rank well ahead of formal qualifications’. Perhaps employers could advise on ways of measuring the attributes of young people that our education system produces. Standard recruitment tools such as interviews and psychometric tests, not forgetting digital footprints, could be used.
Metric 5: GCSE grade 4 as a ‘good pass’
Making grade 4 the official ‘good’ pass for new GCSEs would automatically increase the pass rate, just as the current policy to make it grade 5 will depress it. This may display the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’, but if we do end up with fewer people with good passes, it will mean more people being economically worse off. At least, that’s the logic behind a 2014 DfE report on the ‘Economic value of key intermediate qualifications’: ‘Individuals who achieve five or more good GCSEs including English and maths as their highest qualification, earn 3-13% more than similar individuals qualified to below level 2’.
Metric 6: Creativity
The ‘Bacc for the Future’ campaign says the UK’s creative industries are world-leading, contributing more than £76 billion to the UK economy and employing more than 1.7 million (more than 1 in 20 UK jobs). This seems like a very good reason for agreeing a way to measure schools’ contribution to the delivery of creativity.
Metric 7: Character and resilience
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham claims ‘character is educable and its progress can be measured holistically, not only through self-reports but also more objective research methods’. Maybe it could advise on how to measure character education across the system.
Metric 8: Citizenship (local and global)
The new OCR GCSE in Citizenship Studies promotes active citizenship in the community, so why not put it in the EBacc? And Ofsted is tasked with inspecting how schools promote British Values. If you’ve forgotten, these are – according to the Home Office – ‘democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all to live free from persecution of any kind’. These aren’t exclusively British of course and the concept of the global citizen is also embedded in Cambridge International Examination’s Global Perspectives IGCSE which requires candidates to ‘have a sense of their own active place in the world’ and ‘empathise with the needs and rights of others’. A BIS report on the benefits of Higher Education went for a bigger picture claiming HE delivers ‘greater social cohesion, trust and tolerance, less crime, and political stability’. These offer the potential for some very interesting metrics.
Metric 9: World peace
Following on from global citizenship, let’s end with something really ambitious. The World Education Foundation says ‘Peace and Development of any kind is ultimately tied to education’. Wouldn’t it be interesting to search for a measurable causal link between our education system and its contribution, or otherwise, to world peace?
Director of Policy and Strategy, OCR