Welcome back, after a truly well-earned half term break, I hope you managed to get some rest and relaxation. Last half term was a frenetic and pressurised period, where all our schools were amazing in keeping schools open, despite the many challenges; consistently keeping learning alive through remote learning and providing ongoing basic necessities like food vouchers and packages-thank you.

Over the last few weeks, the ongoing debate has ensued around GCSEs/A levels and the decision around whether there is a postponement of examinations, even though the DfE have categorically set their stall out. In her recent think piece titled, ‘Coming Back Stronger’ Christine Gilbert highlights that the, ‘major concern throughout the pandemic has been its impact on GCSE and A level examinations. Important though academic results are, they are neither the core purpose of education nor indeed the primary reason for a young person’s success in life. Testing and examinations have a grip on our education system, particularly in secondary schools, that is not mirrored in other parts of the world.’ Is this now the opportunity to undertake a major root and branch evaluation of the examination and testing regime and particularly the purposes of GCSEs? Long before any notion of COVID-19, Sir Kevan Collins called for a range of pathways from age 14-18 to cater for the ‘forgotten third’ of GCSE students, he also stated that we need to think again about the value of examinations at 16 for all pupils.

Could heads begin to think about how they capture and record the lost hours of learning that affects pupils, particularly year groups, such as Year 6, 10 and 11, when year group bubbles go down and pupils are sent home-we may need to consider and use this evidence base.

We should be proud of the reported 80% or so 16 year olds going onto Post 16 Education, although the quality of the whole secondary education experience could, for some, be distorted. Camden’s Education Strategy and also the Post 16 work we have commissioned Public First to work with us on, hope to help lead young people on a constructive pathway in their choices Post 16 and also onto Post 18. We are pleased to be working with Public First in the second half of the autumn term, to help to produce a set of recommendations and proposals to inform our Post 16 strategy. The key elements will involve stakeholder engagement, through surveys and round tables which include considering performance at Post 16, looking at our local priorities and the national landscape and considering models of alternative and relevant practice. We hope to report back the recommendations and next steps early in the new year.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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