Commenting on new research published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The findings of this research chime with what NEU members report, and with the findings of the recent Independent Assessment Commission (IAC). The consensus established by the IAC found that a tired, outdated, oversized curriculum leaves little opportunity for the development of the types of skills this NFER research has highlighted will be important for future life and work. 

“The OECD reports, along with plentiful other research evidence, that England is an outlier internationally in this sense and only moving further in the wrong direction. When assessment is entirely via written exam then of course teaching and learning has to focus on retention and regurgitation of knowledge at the expense of other important things, including the development of essential skills. 

“The research highlights that to help current and future students flourish in the 21st century, England must change its approach to assessment and qualifications. If no change to assessment is made, these problems will persist.  

“If assessment were more varied, to ensure it considered more than just how much you can remember, the curriculum could be improved to be more diverse and relevant. The IAC’s New ERA vision and principles give a framework for this: one which values oracy and other assessment methods beyond just written exams. A national conversation to improve assessment in this way is needed urgently.”