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Archive for January, 2024

Why were external national examinations decided upon for 16 year olds in England and Wales?

By Mary Richardson, on 21 January 2024

Wednesday, January 17th 2024 – watch the recording HERE

This talk focused on the policy thinking that went in to the creation of the national assessment system in England and Wales, going back to the first government sponsored examination system for 16-year-olds (the School Certificate) and moving on to its replacement by O levels in 1951. Why was it that the system chosen was for exams to be externally provided, a pattern which has survived for over 100 years?  The talk presented historical examples of policy making and will note that policy is usually a creation out of complex situations. It is frequently formed from many-layered contexts that are dynamic and inevitably changing. This produces tensions that the policy makers must be aware of and they must allow for decisions that enable growth and change, particularly in their early years of implementation.

Dr Andrew Watts began his career as a secondary teacher of English. Having taught in England for thirteen years he moved to a state school in Singapore. After four years he was invited to join a team of inspectors in the Ministry of Education there. On returning to England in 1990 he took a post with the Cambridge examination board, at that time called Cambridge Assessment. Having retired early he took up a number of international consultancies and then worked for a PhD at Cambridge University. He is still involved with current thinking on educational assessment, particularly through an MA course in Cambridge and involvement in AEA-Europe.