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Plans to move exams online a step towards greater equality, says Head of Malvern College

Plans by the International Baccalaureate to move exams online are a key step towards ensuring every child is assessed in a way that suits their own needs and abilities, a leading headteacher said today.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, the director-general of the IB, said moving assessments online was one of his top priorities because it presented opportunities to assess students in new ways better suited to the workplace and the modern world.

Keith Metcalfe, headmaster at Malvern College, has long advocated for exam boards to drop compulsory handwritten exams to improve fairness and accessibility for all.

Malvern College is this year celebrating 30 years of offering the IB assessment to its pupils.

Mr Metcalfe said:

“The moves being taken by the IB are very encouraging. The way we assess our children has not fundamentally changed for decades, but the working environment which we are preparing them for has. Exams need to move with the times.

“All children and young people have different needs when it comes to schooling and that is no different at exam time. It is our responsibility as educators to focus on each individual child and find the best way for them to express their abilities. Increasingly, this is through the use of technology.

“By incorporating technology into schooling we are preparing pupils for, and to some extent assessing them on, the skills they are likely to need in the future.”

The IB gives pupils a broader curriculum than A-levels, with six subjects,an extended essay and a critical thinking course: Theory of Knowledge. Mr Heinonen argues that a broader curriculum helps young people to prepare for the modern world by teaching them to understand how different ideas and subjects relate to one another, and through this greater breadth comes a wider set of skills and contexts for further intellectual development.

Mr Metcalfe said:

“Here, we actively promote a set of values which we call the Malvern Qualities. These help equip our pupils for life’s challenges, enabling them to adapt and succeed in a rapidly evolving world and fit neatly with the IB Philosophy, with

 its focus on developing ‘inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world’ . We particularly like the Theory of Knowledge element of the IB, which develops pupils’ critical thinking skills and teaches them to interrogate how they know what they know.

“As I’ve said, it is important that educators focus on each pupil’s individual needs. The pupils the IB attracts are those who have a greater interest in the world around them and who wish to study a wide range of subjects aligned to that interest. We offer 26 subjects across A levels and IB, providing every pupil with a pathway to suit their individual requirements and wider aspirations; it is important that we develop our assessment approach to ensure each of them is able to demonstrate their ability in the most appropriate way.”

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