Exams poll — February 2022

Parents are unhappy about this year’s exam process and support changing how young people are assessed.

Our poll* of a sample of parents indicates an appetite for assessment reform.

Key findings 

  • 70% of parents say the announcement in relation to advanced information about the content of GCSE exams is too late and does not give teachers and students enough time to adapt their plans for learning and revision.
  • Most parents disagree that setting the grade distribution partway between 2019 and 2021 results is a fair decision for students sitting exams this year. 36% of patents strongly agree it is unfair compared to 9% who strongly agree the decision is fair.
  • Most parents are confident that exams will go ahead this year but would have preferred teacher assessed grades (76%).

Long term, parents support changing the way children are assessed echoing much of the recently published report from the Independent Assessment Commission — Qualifications for a New Era: Equitable, Reliable Assessment.

Most of the polled parents said it would be a good idea to change how we assess children’s performance in future.

Our Parent Voice Report 2021** shows that parent believe the role of education is more than just academic attainment. 88% of parents believe that a good education for their child goes beyond exam results. Parents prioritise the following important skills and capabilities to leave secondary school with:

  • Self-confidence – 53%
  • Being prepared for further education and /​or the workplace – 41%
  • Resilience and the ability to cope with setbacks – 40%
  • Problem solving – 36%
  • Good knowledge of key subjects – 36%

These findings suggest parent priorities for education rest firmly with equipping pupils to become well-rounded individuals, prepared to adapt and adjust to their future via transferable and varied personal and practical life skills, rather than adopting a narrow academic focus. 

There is an awareness among many parents that the current GCSE assessment system is failing too many young people. These findings build on the growing picture of concern among parents since the pandemic about the fitness for purpose of GCSEs and A Levels.

Parents are very concerned about the negative impact on children’s mental health created by the current education system. Parentkind’s Parent Voice Report 2021 revealed that the top children’s mental health concern among parents is exam stress. 

Our response 

Our Chief Executive, CEO John Jolly says:

Covid-19 continues to cause disruption to children’s education. The contingency arrangements for recent exam cohorts and a greater understanding of the way exam grades are awarded has left many parents and their children asking fundamental questions about the fairness and fitness for purpose of the current assessment system. Their concerns echo the concerns of leading academics, teachers, school leaders and employers. We have captured parental opinion through frequent polling and indicated parents’ views and concerns to the Independent Assessment Commission as part of their member panel. We support the IAC’s new report on the need for assessment reform because their recommendations coincide with what parents have told us. Parents must be part of the national conversation on what a new assessment system looks like, and changes must be introduced with due sensitivity to the impact on children’s mental wellbeing.”

Professor Louise Hayward, chair of the Independent Assessment Commission, says:

Society is changing quickly and countries across the world are thinking about the future of qualifications. What kinds of qualifications will serve young people and society well? It is clear that a system that leaves out 1/3 of young people has to change. No society can afford to do that morally or economically. Nor can a society afford to risk young people’s motivation to learn by having a qualification system that leads to endless well-intentioned but dull examination practice. England’s new assessment ERA should have qualifications that are equitable and reliable; that recognise the achievements of all young people and help them to build the confidence they need to be successful in whatever path they choose to follow. Parents have been central to the work of the Independent Assessment Commission and ideas from parents have been very influential in the vision, the principles and the recommendations in the IAC’s final report. It is crucial that parents are part of the national conversation about the future of qualifications as recommended in the report.”

Our methodology 

Exams poll January to February 2022*

Parentkind’s poll on exams 2022: 102 parents in England answered, of which 76 had children in Year 11 or Year 13 due to sit exams this year. The poll opened on 20th January and closed on 2nd February 2022. It was promoted online and shared through social media.

Parent Voice Report 2021**

Parentkind’s Parent Voice Report 2021 was carried out online with a nationally representative sample of 3,751 parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 3rd June and 19th July 2021.