Revisited – The value of education beyond exams

30 May 2019

Last month I wrote about education, exams and wellbeing.

This month I will do the same.

Perhaps a lack of imagination on my part but there have been a key development since that warrants a little commentary.

On May 14th the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) published a new framework for inspection of the country’s schools.

This will go live in September, and follows the largest call for input in Ofsted’s history, with over 15,000 respondents feeding in their thoughts and comments.

Pro Bono Economics was one of them, supporting the proposed introduction of a new “Quality of Education” judgement of schools.

The idea being that such a such a judgement would “de-intensify” the focus on performance data as historically understood (grades), and place more of a premium on the importance of schools providing a happy and supportive learning environment.

This proposal has been accepted, with Ofsted itself saying: “In recent times, the curriculum has too often come second to achieving test and examination results at the expense of all else”.

Alas we cannot claim sole responsibility for the change given the majority of respondents to the consultation backed the idea, but the weight of support behind it is also very positive to flag.

Still, this is an encouraging rather than an outstanding (hat tip to Ofsted there) step.

Speaking to The Telegraph on May 17th,  former Cabinet Secretary and Pro Bono Economics Chairman Lord Gus O’Donnell called for schools to reduce academic testing and introduce a wellbeing measure of children amid mounting concerns over their mental and physical health (see here).

In truth the possibility of measuring wellbeing in schools was never really on the cards with this exercise.

This does not reduce the validity of the idea however, as explored in previous blogs (see here for a piece we produced back in February on the potential merits to be had in measuring wellbeing)

We at Pro Bono Economics – in collaboration with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing wherever possible – will continue making the case for wellbeing featuring more prominently in wider society, including schools.

This Ofsted result represents a good start, and is the kind of initiative we at Pro Bono Economics will look to become increasingly involved in moving forward, as we seek to establish more of a foothold in key societal debates such as these.

Simon Burns

Director of Public Affairs

Simon joined PBE in November 2018. He started his career working in reputation management on behalf of the offshore financial services industry in 2010, before joining the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association two years later, first as an Executive on and then Manager of the Policy Team.

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