Leading head Samantha Price, the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association, is calling for reform to exams and university admissions as part of a new post-Covid “era of opportunity” in education.
In the first week of her presidency, Samantha Price, head of Benenden School, is calling for a rethink of terminal written exams and advocating post-qualification university admissions.
Mrs Price is also calling for a greater emphasis on student mental health, the benefits of digital learning and parity between degrees and apprenticeships.
She said in a statement: “We have just lived through one of the most disruptive periods in the history of UK education. We have all been forced to operate differently over the past 18 months and this has shone a light on the reality that there are parts of the education system that can be improved.
“We all want the best for young people, but sometimes the systems we put in place become outdated and unwieldy and stand in their way. I’d really like to see us take a fresh look at assessment and how we can deliver relevant opportunities to more young people.”
She added: “Not all my fellow school leaders may agree, but it’s my personal view that we should seriously look at how we assess young people at age 16 and 18, consider whether terminal, written exams really are fit for purpose, and move to a post A-level university and apprenticeship application system which will be fairer for all.”
Regarding apprenticeships, she added: “I think we have reached the point where we need to acknowledge that a traditional university degree is not the only route for our brightest and best, whatever their background.
“The extent to which universities may or may not offer value for money has been questioned for a number of years, with pastoral care and accommodation now taking equal place with teaching quality and contact time.
“Lingering student loan debt long into adulthood is a very real problem not only for individuals but also for the country as a whole.
“Growing numbers of young people are now considering apprenticeships and I do think that schools which have for years pointed their students towards traditional university degrees should take apprenticeships seriously.
“This isn’t a case of apprenticeships being ‘better’ than a traditional university degree. They are simply different, and it’s time we left behind a ‘one size fits all’ mentality.”