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Aberdeenshire youngsters prefer continuous assessment to exams, virtual meeting shows
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Education & Skills

Aberdeenshire youngsters prefer continuous assessment to exams, virtual meeting shows 

Students would like to see exams scrapped in favour of continuous assessment, it emerged in a recent online meeting.

A senior Aberdeenshire councillor urged pupils from across the region to give their views on education reform via virtual post-it notes on ‘Jamboard’ – a digital interactive whiteboard developed by Google.

Laurence Findlay, the local authority’s director of Education and Children’s Services, met with young people, drawn from Aberdeenshire Youth Council, local members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) and members of the local authority’s Pupil Participation Forum, to discuss the future of exams and the curriculum.

This comes as the Scottish education looks to implement the recommendations set out in the OECD’s review of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Findlay, who was joined by senior councillors and officers, said he was keen to better understand how digital technology is being used in schools.

He was also interested in learning more about young people’s experiences of sitting exams and what they think school should “look and feel like” for generations to come.

It emerged that less emphasis on exams is a popular idea, with the majority of the young people who attended saying they would ditch annual exams in favour of monthly testing and use of classwork as evidence.

One young person disagreed though, saying that ongoing assessment had been pressurising too, and that instead of scrapping exams, the focus should be on “helping young people to cope with the stress.”

The importance of equipping young people with study skills from a young age was also acknowledged.

And helping pupils to navigate swathes of misinformation online – and making this a core part of the curriculum – was suggested by one of the participants.

The online meeting was one of a series in which young people meet with senior leaders and have the opportunity to ask questions. It is part of the Aberdeenshire Council’s campaign to ensure youth participation and children’s rights.

The feedback received from the gatherings may be shared with head teachers when they consider national curricular changes that arise from the OECD report.

Some of the key recommendations outlined in the global education body’s review include a shake-up of the exams system in favour of more continuous teacher assessment during the course, based on classwork and school-based tests, as well as externally marked projects, extended essays, and oral and practical presentations.

The report also suggests “more use of digital opportunities for feedback and feedforward”.

In addition, it recommends reducing class-contact hours for teachers.

Findlay told the participants: “I’m inspired by the views you have shared and the thought you’ve put into this.

“We have opportunities to help shape the national system, and the Scottish Government has committed to engaging with young people as they address the outcomes of the OECD report.”

Councillor Gillian Owen, chairman of the Education and Children’s Services Committee, said: “These wonderful young people should be advising at a national level. We will make it a priority to ensure their feedback is heard and understood. I’m so grateful for their contributions which are always so insightful, and I look forward to catching up again at the next meeting.”

Vice chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce added: “With every report we get as councillors, every update or impact assessment we’re asked to scrutinise, we keep the feedback we have received from children, young people and families in mind.

“Thank you to the young people who are engaging with us through this forum and if you are interested in taking part in future please get in touch.”

The next meeting will explore more ideas for shaping the curriculum and consider budget priorities.

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