Reinvent Education not Reform

Well, congratulations Mr Gove, you’ve done it again!


A few months ago, you essentially told my youngest son that the qualifications he was currently studying for were worth less than the paper they were written on. Today, you are telling my eldest son that his A-Levels are not fit for purpose either.

Thank you very much.

Have you got any idea how young people might feel on hearing this news? Precisely how can we motivate young people of 14+ to feel any sort of value in their learning when they have been indoctrinated into thinking that passing these exams is the only thing of importance, and then they are told that their exams are a pile of pointlessness? Maybe the answer is to promote learning rather than exam passing and then you might just get the outcomes that you want – children and young people wanting to succeed in their learning that is meaningful to them.

Just imagine what it is to be a sixteen year old today, traipsing to school to take one of these “meaningless” exams, then spending another four months studying for these “meaningless” exams, possibly receiving decent grades in these “meaningless” exams and then returning to school in September to complete two years of, yes, “meaningless” exams. It’s just not fair.


Ironically, we actually agree with Mr Gove about the need to reform the examination structure. We also agree with him that our young people are taking too many exams. However, our other views on the matter somewhat differ from Mr Gove.

Firstly, as we have said before, why do we need a 16+exam at all when the school leaving age has been increased to 18? These exams are an anachronism. They are pointless, in that there is no point in examining young people at this age. There is plenty of point in them learning these subjects.


Secondly, if we are going to have a sixteen plus examination, we strongly believe that it shouldn’t come in the form of the current suggestion of the English Baccalaureate. It is restrictive, elitist and condemns creative subjects, and those who excel at them, to a lower division, therefore making them less worthy in the eyes of some.

Thirdly, we have the issue of AS levels. Mr Gove is now saying that they should be a stand-alone exam and not part of the A-Level. Whilst we might agree that the AS level examination needs reform, our preferred option would be to scrap them altogether. What exactly is the point of the AS other than to indicate to universities how a young person is doing in order to offer them their “conditional place” on a course – that incidentally is going to cost them over £30,000 to complete? There is no point whatsoever in these exams. Perhaps if people (and universities admissions managers) started to trust teachers more to know a young person’s capability as they progress through a course, then the word of the teacher should be enough to predict the ultimate A-Level grade.


Whilst we are commenting on universities, here is another issue. Why is our 14-18 education system dictated by the demands of universities who stand to make financial gains in perpetuating an archaic examination process? Why is education and the model of attainment and standards directed by the alleged needs of a small proportion of academically inclined students who will attend the so-called top Russell group universities? Recently, Ed Miliband talked of the lost 50% who don’t aspire or have the capability to take a degree, but the numbers of disaffected students are bigger than that. Even those who intend to go to university to study creative subjects have a system of examinations that devalues their subjects and doesn’t fully capture their ability or enthusiasm. Before they start their further education they are told that their degree in art or drama is not as important as those who are studying maths or science.


As we said in our previous post this week, we don’t need “reform” in education. That implies that we are merely reshuffling the pack. It suggests that we are content with certain aspects of the current system. We’re not. What we need now is reinvention of education. We need to look at what we are trying to get out of educating our children and young people. We need to listen to experts in education, We need to seriously consider the views of people in business who are ultimately going to be employing our young people, and we need to listen to young people themselves.

We need to wake up and realise that in the last decade alone, information technology has advanced so rapidly as to make formal teaching of facts alone completely and utterly pointless. We need to reinvent education and we need to have learning – real learning – at the epicentre of change.


We need to act now so that we don’t get another tranche of disillusioned young people who have no idea why they are taking certain exams when politicians and some educationalists have deemed them to be meaningless.

Meanwhile, I shall go and placate my eighteen year old who has just risen from his bed to take a “bite-size” section of his geography A-Level today, having yesterday been given an offer from his favoured university. I will try and convince him that it really is worthwhile to succeed in these exams, and yes, they are still meaningful, and more importantly, his enjoyment of the learning and the subjects he has chosen far outweighs the ultimate qualification he receives.


About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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1 Response to Reinvent Education not Reform

  1. Pingback: Are Entrance Exams a Necessity in India? | GURUKOOL Śāstra

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