How much control should the state have over educational assessment?

How much control should the state have over educational assessment?

Over the past eighteen years, the number of changes to England’s education and assessment policy made by the state is overwhelming. With the establishment of Ofqual, continued crises within the UK assessment system and the ongoing discussion of standards, a recent Cambridge Assessment conference addressed the crucial issue: how far should the state control educational assessment? 

The conference, which took place in Cambridge on 19 October, brought together nearly 200 assessment professionals and public policy experts. It was opened by Cambridge Assessment’s Group CEO Simon Lebus who commented: “One of Ofqual’s main objectives, written into the legislation, is to promote public confidence in the qualification system, and there is no doubt this is at a low ebb.

“Only last week, Terry Leahy, Chief Executive of Tesco, attacked standards in British schools and Michael Rake, Chairman of BT, called for GCSEs and A levels to be replaced. However, I do not believe the arrangements introduced by the new legislation will be sufficient on their own to restore trust.

“This is partly because the long hand of central control continues to exert its influence through Government ownership of the curriculum. Whilst there is a legitimate issue of accountability here, the realities of bureaucratic activism and the need to reconcile competing interests among stakeholders make this self-defeating. Originally well intentioned efforts to ensure consistent minimum standards soon lead to overbearing and overloaded programmes of study.”

The conference included engaging keynote presentations by Professor Alison Wolf who has a special interest in the relationship between education and the labour market, and Professor Robin Alexander who has recently completed the Cambridge Primary Review. Seminars led by experts including Isabel Nisbet, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ofqual, and Dr John Allan, Policy Manager, Scottish Qualifications Authority, addressed key matters such as international comparisons, university admissions and accountability.

View the podcasts from this event.

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