Pearson launches major consultation into future of UK exams and assessment

Drawing on the observations of learners, educators, parents, employers, parliamentarians and experts, Pearson hopes to inform and reinvent the country’s qualification system

British education publishing and assessment service Pearson yesterday (15 February) announced a major national consultation project, seeking to collate insights and opinions on the future of assessment and qualifications for young people age 14–19 across the UK.

Drawing on the observations of learners, educators, parents, employers, parliamentarians and education experts, the learning company will compare views on how the system can best deliver in the process of assessment and awarding qualifications, equipping them for the challenges and opportunities presented by the ever-changing working world and economy.

The consultation will run from 15 February–31 March, culminating in a final report in Autumn this year.

“Coherence across all stages of education is essential and COVID aside, we need to ensure what young people learn, how they learn it and how it is assessed is fit for the 21st century” – Rob Bristow, president, online learning, Pearson

Rod Bristow, president of online learning at Pearson, commented: “For the second year running, COVID-19 will force us all to adapt and rethink how we both educate and assess our young people.

“While we work with the government, schools and colleges and other exam boards to make sure the system delivers for learners in 2021, we also have a responsibility to look further ahead and use this unique moment to consider all of the issues.

“So far,” he explained, “public debate is focusing narrowly on whether GCSEs are just one stage in the age 14 to 19 journey. Coherence across all stages of education is essential and COVID aside, we need to ensure what young people learn, how they learn it and how it is assessed is fit for the 21st century.”

The three fundamental fields the consultation will consider include:

  • Conditions and environment: exploring the evolving requirements of the digital-first generation and how surrounding economic, technological and societal trends are impacting both the demands of, and requirements for, young people today.
  • Purpose and value: considering the role that education for 14–19-year-olds should play in developing confident, well-rounded learners and supporting their future aspirations.
  • Trust and equity: delving into issues of fairness and coherence in the system to maintain public confidence in the assessment and qualifications process, ensuring the system delivers equitably for all learners and serves the nation’s diverse student population.

Finings will be published in an interim report this May, informing a follow-up phase of qualitative research by an external research partner. To guide the project and direct the second research phase, Pearson has assembled a panel of education experts representing assessment and qualifications, academia, former education secretaries and ministers, and other industry representatives.

“With our global reach, we know that consumer demands and behaviours do not stand still,” said Leena Nair, chief human resources officer at Unilever. “For us to contribute towards solving the biggest challenges of our time – including climate change and social inequality – it’s clear that we have to fully enable the passion and purpose of our employees in order to succeed. Therefore, it’s clear to us that the education system must reflect today’s challenges and do everything to make sure that every learner is able to reach their potential.”


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