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New C&CR magazine questions future of Common Entrance May 18, 2012

Posted by Jonathan Barnes, editor in Independent Education, Magazines.
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The new issue of Conference & Common Room is back from our printers and being distributed to independent schools across the UK.

The magazine, produced by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), is packed with articles and opinion from leading educators.

Among the issues tackled in the 49th issue is the future of the Common Entrance, which has been a hot topic for many years.

Graeme May, deputy head academic at Abingdon School, asks the question, and considers a suggestion that the CE should become the Common Assessment (CA).

Here’s an extract from his article:

“If we can for a moment separate CE (the course) from CE (the exam), then problem number one is the fact that, in the era of pre-testing, CE results are largely an irrelevance. Rarely, very rarely, are we surprised by a sudden poor performance. We have pre-selected our preferred candidates and they have chosen months and months ago whether they are coming to us or going elsewhere. Barring utter disasters, about which we will usually have been warned, the candidates are coming to us anyway.

This leads to a pretty dispiriting week for senior school heads of department (HODs) who face the onerous task of turning the marking around very quickly without any sense that their work is at all relevant. We all know how demotivating it is to work under these conditions. I am not at all surprised when HoDs fail to fill out ISEB questionnaires immediately following the exam – they’re so exhausted and demotivated by the whole business. Why would they want to spend time doing more of it?

And as for coursework projects in geography and history? Well, I’m sorry to say that, though they are no doubt excellent in principle and, I am sure, often in practice, the reality is that senior schools can have no real guarantee as to their provenance or the circumstances under which they were completed, so they play almost no part in the assessment process. Better for prep schools to issue their own project grade and append it to the CE results sheet, given that they are much better placed to know just how much of the project is the pupil’s own, properly independent, work.

We feebly defend the marking of CE on the grounds that ‘it’s useful for setting’ but the evidence I have from my HoDs is that CE exams are so unreliable in that regard that major resetting is required in maths and MFL within the first term and complete resetting happens at the end of the year as the pupils move on to GCSEs.”

The full article can be read online at www.candcr.co.uk

C&CR is published three times a year, at the start of each school term. If you are interested in contributing to the magazine, you can contact Editor Tom Wheare at tom@dunbry.plus.com. Potential advertisers can contact Madeleine Anderson at manderson@johncatt.com.

To subscribe to the magazine, visit our bookshop by clicking here.

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