News from the Independent Assessment Commission led by University of Glasgow’s Professor Louise Hayward

The Independent Assessment Commission (IAC), representing the interests of parents, students, teachers, business and academia, has today (2 February) published its report on the future of assessment and qualifications in England.

The IAC, chaired by Professor Louise Hayward of University of Glasgow’s School of Education, marks a major shift in thinking about how England should assess its young people in schools and colleges and is seen as the most important intervention into exams and assessment in a generation.

The report is focused on ensuring the English qualifications system equips young people with the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to help address the current and emerging social and economic challenges. It is also focused on creating a system that helps young people leave school and college with a broader skill set that would make them more ready for Further Education, Higher Education and the workplace.

To achieve this the report argues that ’fundamental changes’ to the current system are needed and that change should begin with GCSEs. The IAC argues that change should improve equity - qualifications to meet the needs of every young person, and address the growing mental health crisis in our schools.

A General Certificate of Secondary Education could still be part of the learning journey of school and college students. The IAC has concluded that how GCSEs are awarded should be comprehensively overhauled, with an end to cliff edge exams as the sole mode of assessment and no arbitrary assessment of all young people at the age of 16

Assessment should instead take place between the ages of 14 and 19, and at a time when students are ready to undertake them.

Professor Louise Hayward, Chair of the IAC said: "I am very proud to present this far reaching and visionary report.

"The IAC has concluded that the current approach to qualifications requires fundamental change. It is beyond doubt that it is failing its own test to provide a system of assessment that sufficiently serves society, the economy and the young people being educated in England’s schools and colleges.

"Today, we have laid out a vision, a set of principles and a series of specific recommendations for a New Era of equitable, reliable, assessment.

"The IAC report identifies inequalities deeply ingrained in a system and which has to change if there is to be greater educational equality.

"We need a system that helps every young person to progress to college, employment or university with qualifications that recognise their achievements and the capabilities they need to succeed in the challenging times that lie ahead. New ERA qualifications should open doors to future learning and employment for every young person.

"Currently, too many young people feel that they are denied opportunities because their time at school has not been properly recognized - this is not good for them, nor is it good for their future employers, our economy and society.

"England’s exam system needs to change. Equality, diversity, inclusion and health and well-being must be central to an assessment system that has a positive impact on all students

"The proposed IAC reforms will help attract and retain teachers by recognising and developing their professionalism, providing greater job satisfaction as they help students develop further their skills in problem solving, critical thought and innovation.

"Ending high stakes exams as the only mode of assessment will improve mental health and reduce the stress experienced by teachers, students and their parents and will also ensure that disadvantaged students receive the support they need and that practical, technical skills, and ’soft’ skills of collaboration, teamwork, creativity and entrepreneurship are recognized.

"The time has come for change. We urge policy-makers to listen to this report and act upon it. Our economy, our society and our young people need nothing less."