How I would change the exam system KS1-5

I do not subscribe to the view that you should not criticize something unless you have a solution or better idea. I think that is a ridiculous notion that is often used to shut down discussion of difficult issues. That being said, having said that the current exams are not fit for purpose:

I did feel I should give some thought to what I would replace them with…

I would specify content for each subject in each year from reception to year 13.

I would then produce an end of year test for each year group 1-13 and expect schools to use them as their end of year tests. 10% of each test would be on material from earlier years, 70% of each test would be on material from the current year and 20% would be on material from the year above.

In each primary school the highest year group in the school would be externally examined. All other year groups would have their exams marked by the teacher and the results reported to the DoE.

In secondary schools year 11 and 13 exams would be marked externally and all other exams would be marked by the teachers.

The grade boundaries would be the same every year for all year groups from 1-13.

A*-90%, A-80%, B-70% and so on.

The marks used to generate the grade would be as follows:

  • Year 1- The percentage from the end of year 1 test.
  • Year 2- The average of the year 1 and year 2 tests. Schools would be required to keep year 1 papers and send in a sample for moderation if year 1 and year 2 results were too different
  • Year 3- The percentage from the end of year 3 test.
  • Year 4- The average of the year 3 and 4 tests.
  • Year 5- The average of the year 3,4 and 5 tests.
  • Year 6- The average of the year 3,4,5 and 6 tests. Schools would be required to keep all year 5 papers and send in a sample for moderation if the year 5 and 6 results are too different. If year 3 and 4 results are too different from year 5 and 6 ones then only year 5 and 6 results would count if year 5 results are accepted by moderators. If the year 5 results are not accepted by the moderators then only the year 6 results would count.
  • Year 7- The percentage from the end of year 7 test
  • Year 8- The average of the year 7 and 8 tests
  • Year 9- The average of the year 7,8 and 9 tests
  • Year 10- At this point I would separate Maths into two GCSEs. GCSE numeracy would stand alone and graded based on the percentage at the end of year 10. GCSE Maths would be graded based on the average from the year 7-10 tests.
  • Year 11- GCSE numeracy would be graded based on the average of year 10 and 11 tests. Schools would be required to keep all year 10 tests and send in a sample for moderation if the year 10 and 11 results are too different. GCSE Maths would be graded based on the average of year 7-11 tests.  Schools would be required to keep all year 10 tests and send in a sample for moderation if the year 10 and 11 results are too different. The entire GCSE would be based on year 10 and 11 results if the year 10 results are accepted by the moderators and year 11 results only if they’re not.
  • Year 12- Besides scrapping retakes, no significant changes
  • Year 13- Besides scrapping retakes, no significant changes

This system would probably create as many new problems as it solves but I think it would be more coherent and comprehensible.

Obviously if a pupil does not study a subject for an entire key stage then their grade would be generated from the existing data.

There would be a lot of details that would need ironing out. For example:

  • Would Humanities in KS3 count towards History or Geography in KS4?
  • What about Science in KS3 counting towards Physics, Chemistry and Biology in KS4?
  • Which subjects would be formally examined in primary school?
  • If pupils drop a subject do they get certificates for the grade they were on whey dropped the subject with what year they dropped it in?
  • Probably many more

What do you think?

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11 thoughts on “How I would change the exam system KS1-5

  1. missmcinerney

    I really like the idea of testing previous years’ knowledge in the following years. One of the best things about Hirsh’s work is that there is a spiralling upwards – things build on one another, so theoretically you should be able to test the prior knowledge and it should be retained. I know this is something @HFletcherWood is also working on with some success.

    One problem of the ‘averaging’ system has become apparent to me while working out here in the US, where the Grade Point Average (GPA) is king. If a student has a dip – often caused by an issue beyond their control (think: long-term teacher absence, time off for illness) – then that dip, which may only be temporary, stays with them for a long time and depresses their grade beyond its actual impact on their learning. Finding yourself in a situation where you will, for quite some time, have a lower grade due to a past that you’re unable to erase can become quite demotivating.

    Perhaps there are ways around this. For example, if a student dramatically veers off there could be a way of subbing out a score. The way you have put the moderation in suggests that you’ve already thought through these issues. The problem that any government will leap on is that teachers will often ‘game’ these situations – purposely manipulating moderations/substitutions to best effect. If they did, then perhaps we would still end up in a situation where no-one really knows what it means to be “a C grade” student anyway.

    That said, I loved this series. Lots of food for thought.

    Reply
  2. srcav

    I have enjoyed this series of posts, and in particular have found this one sets out some great ideas. I agree with tge previous comment regarding averages though, and thing this could be combatted somewhat if weighting were given to the higher years. I’m not sure how much the weighting would be though, but I do feel y11 should be a fair bit higher than y7. I live the idea of splitting maths into numeracy and maths.

    Reply
    1. bigkid4 Post author

      I agree that year 11 should be weighted more than year 7 but not by so much that all the focus goes into year 11. I also think that systems could be put in place to prevent students chances being damaged by one poor result. As their results would be recorded every year a November retake could be put in place solely for those pupils who have had an uncharacteristically poor end of year result.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Maths exams and how we prepare | cavmaths

  4. Pingback: Maths and Numeracy GCSEs | cavmaths

  5. Concerned

    I think the biggest problem in schools is the lack of exams. There are too few, so I think your solution is phenomenal. The only thing better than twenty exams is two-hundred exams.

    Reply
    1. bigkid4 Post author

      Pupils already have several exams a year. The only change would be the stakes of those exams. I happen to think that having 1 or 2 high stakes exams in each subject at the end is a poor model of assessment and that something more continuous would be better. Having a test at the end of each year would not change the number of tests happening in schools in the slightest…

      Reply
  6. joiningthedebate

    The averaging over different years feels a bit unworkable. Content from previous years is a good idea. Splitting maths into numeracy and (genuine)
    maths is a good idea
    Apologies, I initially didn’t realise how old this thread was

    Reply

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