From education to employment

#ResultsDay – Celebrating Real Success

Stewart Segal

The students getting their results this week deserve a huge amount of respect and congratulations having come through a very difficult two years of their education and training.  They have faced tremendous disruption and uncertainty, yet they have continued to learn in new and in many cases very difficult ways.  Despite this the headlines in the media are all about grade inflation and the problems universities and employers will face.  Even the term grade inflation is unhelpful.

Even the term grade inflation is unhelpful.

Teachers and tutors have worked really hard to create a new system of testing and assessing their students, most of whom have indeed sat exams based on past papers despite the fact that they have not been able to complete their learning.  The teachers were asked to assess whether their students had reached a certain level of knowledge and understanding.  In previous years this was tested on a particular day and time when a percentage of those students who had that knowledge and understanding of their subject were not able to display it on the day (very often for reasons not within their control).  Those students, instead of being failed by the system now have the grade they deserve.  Some would say that this year is a fairer system.  The grades although assessed by the teachers and tutors will have been moderated within their institutions and in many cases across whole academies then moderated by the awarding bodies.  Teachers will not have been able to award grades without a lot of verifiable evidence.  These are fair grades and we should focus on the success of this year’s students who have also learnt a lot about resilience and self-discipline.

We should focus on the success of this year’s students who have also learnt a lot about resilience and self-discipline

Employers should also celebrate this success and not be swayed by the people who believe that only examinations prove someone’s knowledge and skills.  That is why there continues to be a focus on learning facts and having exams.  We see this even in Apprenticeships where the system of continuous assessment has been replaced by End Point Assessment.  There was too much emphasis on continuous assessment in the past and the introduction of more formal EPA was a good thing, but we should have kept a better balance of continuous and end assessment.  Many employers would like to see more ongoing assessment to check progress and adapt the learning programme. 

It was not so long ago the DfE removed a lot of the ongoing assessment from A Levels.  We are told that employers will not value the A Level results from this year.  Does anyone really think the employers will not employ someone because they have an A Level grade from 2021?  I have read and heard this said a number of times, but I have more faith in our employers who will see that this year’s crop of learners will have developed many more skills and behaviours than just their grades.

Apprenticeship options are not just for those who do not get the grades they wanted.

I am very hopeful that this year’s group of students making their transitions will get the options that they want whether that is continuing with their education or getting into employment.  Schools still favour continuing education and for Level 3 students that tends to be University.  I hope they will explore all of the options with their students after today and not just those that do not get the grades they want.  They should be exploring all of the options such as apprenticeships with every student, even those who do have an offer from university and get the grades they need.  Apprenticeship options are not just for those who do not get the grades they wanted.  I hope everyone will has been able to look at all the options already but this year has made career discussions and career choices even more difficult. 

There are many organisations that can support all young people and learning providers who have learners getting results this year.  I still work with Youth Employment UK who provide fantastic resources on their web site, whether that is finding the right option or supporting young people in whatever option they do choose.  Youth Friendly Employers and Training Providers in the YEUK network are creating good quality opportunities for young people.  They are looking at the ways they can increase Apprenticeship, Kickstart, graduate and entry level routes into their organisations.  We all have to do everything we can in the next couple of years to support these young people through what will inevitably be a difficult couple of years following the pandemic.

So, congratulations to all those who are getting their results today and to schools, colleges and the many other training providers who have provided the best support they can through the most challenging period any of us can remember.

Stewart Segal

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