TFTW: Exam results are only part of the story.

Essex Chronicle Thought for the Week June 6th 2013

Students across the country are now in the full swing of the annual exam hall rituals, testing their ability to recall and apply their subject knowledge.  In August all will be revealed when students receive the grades that define their achievements, opening or closing doors, and schools are held to account.  The stakes are incredibly high.

It seems a good moment to reflect on the value we place on examination results relative to all the other elements that constitute ‘a good education’.  Exams don’t capture the extent to which young people contribute to their communities; their capacity for moral leadership; their commitment to artistic and sporting excellence; the empathy and support they give to people living in poverty across the world or their willingness to tackle prejudice.

Exams don’t provide a measure of how effectively someone works in a team; their ability to take initiative or to respond calmly in a crisis; their ability to undertake a long-term in-depth study; their skills in dealing with people from different backgrounds or their powers of persuasion or to be thoughtful, kind and tolerant.  Obviously enough, exams only measure what can be measured in exams!

Meanwhile, as a society, we place considerable value on all the other attributes.  I think we need a system that takes greater account of this bigger picture and allows young people to show more clearly what strengths they have and the full extent of their personal achievements.  I’m currently working with people from across the education sector to devise an English qualifications framework that gives greater weight to these other dimensions; that gives credit for aspects of learning that are not included in exams but that employers and colleges value.  I hope to be able to give more details in due course  – so watch this space.

In the meantime, let’s all remember when the exam results come out, that however important they are, they only tell a part of the story for any student and for any school.

UPDATE:  Here are the details of the English Baccalaureate Framework I refer to above.


The original piece.
The original piece.


  1. I totally agree with your comments. We are supposed to be fulfilling every childs needs in the classroom but then totally ignore this when it comes to how we assess them. We are supposed to be preparing our students for the workplace where all the things you mentioned above are vitally important, where does sitting an examination come into most workplaces…… I have never sat an examination since I left University!


  2. I read this in the paper and I agree entirely.

    I have a First from a Russell Group university (albeit in the humanities), AAA at A-level (back when that was the maximum) and 9 GCSEs at A*/A. My any measure that makes me a “success” in terms of producing “good data” for my educational institutions.

    However I’ve now realised that employers are not impressed with grades and that it is experience that counts. Given my time again I would have spent far less time memorizing Physics equations I have long since forgotten and got a bit more experience under my belt instead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s