Eton headmaster slams ‘exasperating’ A-level and GCSE exams and says teacher training is ‘a mess’

Daily Mail, 19.05.15, HMC member Tony Little, headmaster of Eton College calls for an overhaul of the schools system. His interview in the upcoming issue of HMC's Insight magazine is referenced.

The headmaster of Eton slammed 'exasperating' GCSE and A-level exams as he launched a scathing attack on the teaching system.

Tony Little, who has spent 13 years at the helm of the exclusive school, said individual subjects were taught well but exams do not make pupils think laterally.

Mr Little, who is due to step down from his post at the prestigious boys' private school this summer, added that teacher training in Britain is 'a mess'.

The headmaster warned that schools are controlled by a university admissions system that focuses only on results - leaving teachers to follow a 'rigid' system to avoid risking a pupil's chances of winning a place.

Speaking to Insight magazine, published by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, Mr Little said: 'We need to see the breaking down of the silo mentality that exists in all schools.

'My school is typical. Each subject is very well taught in itself, but I am exasperated by an exam system which makes it difficult for teachers to make links and pupils to see things in different ways. It's about encouraging them to see things laterally and be more nimble.

'The exam system is like an egg timer. There is a wealth of experience and learning at the top, then it is all squeezed through the narrow bottleneck of exams and pushed out of the other side. I am not against exams or rigour, quite the contrary; it's the way exams are designed.

'And we are controlled by a university admissions process focussed solely on exam results. No one wants to prejudice students' chances, which locks us into a rigid system.'

The headmaster's comments came as teenagers across the country prepare to sit their GCSEs and A-levels.

'We have made rather a mess of teacher training in this country,' Mr Little added.

'I would like to see teaching as a highly trained profession, but not as it is now. I take unqualified teachers because I think we can train them better in my school. In the future I would like a new national framework which would open up teaching initially to people without professional qualifications but with good subject knowledge.

'Those wishing to become career teachers would have to work towards a charter mark which would have to be refreshed and which would include research.'

Eton counts David Cameron, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry among its former pupils.

Mr Cameron follows in a line of 19 Prime Ministers that attended the school, including Wellington, Gladstone and Macmillan.

A long list of famous actors, entrepreneurs and sportsmen also went to school, including the likes of Homeland's Damian Lewis, financier Nat Rothschild and Olympic gold medal-winning rower Matthew Pinsent.

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