Cap Number Of GCSEs Pupils Allowed To Take, Says Pearson

Examiners have touted a cap on the number of GCSEs pupils can take as the only way to stop the "exam overload" which they say is damaging children's education.

Pearson, the company which owns exam board Edexcel, released the damning report on the state of compulsory education on Monday, saying pupils were taking an "unnecessary" number of GCSEs in a bid to impress universities.

The consultation, which Pearson launched in January, gave parents, teachers and pupils the opportunity to air their concerns and suggestions on how to improve the examination system.

"All seminars identified a real concern that examinations were at risk of becoming the master of education, rather than its servant and that this had the potential to narrow what was taught," the report noted.

"We think it is undesirable for students to sit for 12 even more GCSEs. Universities have made clear to us that they regard such a large number of qualifications, even at the highest grade, as unnecessary."

"Top grades no longer automatically mean top students," he said in March.

As a result of the "Leading on Standards" consultation, Pearson has published a series of recommendations including:

  • A five yearly, independent review which will "ensure the British examination system is fit for purpose"
  • Enhanced training for Pearson examiners
  • A new generation of A-levels which "set the bar higher and encourage deeper learning"
  • Independent validation of skills for those aged 18 in partnership with employers and higher education

Pearson also calls for a "renewed culture of ambition" and argues teachers are better supported to assess students' progress in the classroom rather than in the exam hall.

Rod Bristow, Pearson UK president said setting educational expectations high is "fundamental to getting standards right".

"Our aspirations and actions need to help build a culture of ambition in British education, shifting mind sets from meeting to exceeding expectations.

“Through these actions and others, we want to work with partners across education to help re-instil confidence in the British examination system, and ensure that the knowledge children acquire during their time at school truly endures and serves them throughout their lives.

“Too much focus on exams risks undermining the broader purpose of education. We believe we can help to build a system that fosters a culture which emphasises learning more, rather than simply testing more."