Girls should only be tested once at the end of their A-Level years and be allowed instead to go and live life and “make mistakes and fall in love”, head of top girls’ school says

The Telegraph, 05/05/15, girls should only be tested once at the end of their A-Level years and be allowed instead to go and live life and "make mistakes and fall in love" says HMC member Jenny Brown, head of St Albans High School for Girls.

Jenny Brown, headmistress at St Albans High School for Girls, said that “relentless” testing only adds unnecessary pressure on pupils preventing them from developing other valuable life skills.

Instead, she said, a system that moves away from modules "is better designed to develop resourcefulness and resilience rather than endless resits".

Ms Brown, who started as head of the high-achieving private school last year, told the Daily Telegraph: “"Excessive exams contribute in unhelpful ways if they become the only measure [of success] because it puts students under too much pressure.

“By not having a single year clear of exams you don’t allow young people the freedom they need. In our day, the first year of the sixth form was hugely important for having Saturday jobs, for going out and making mistakes and then learn from those mistakes and fall in love.

“You had the space and the time to explore other intellectual avenues but being tested on a narrowly set of criteria doesn’t allow you to develop in a much richer way.”

She added that too much testing puts strain on her pupils, and can lead them to suffer depression and other issues with their mental health.

Ms Brown said: “By putting exams so squarely as the only measures of people's success, in terms of judging them on how students perform, leads to self-esteem issues and possibly depression.

Over two decades in the teaching profession, she claimed to have witnessed “an explosion in mental health issues in our young with depression nearly doubling in the age group 15-16”.

Ms Brown added: "There have been massive mental health concerns among young people and that coincides with the decision that there should be important exams in Year 11, 12 and 13. There is a relationship between how we over-examine and the rise of mental health casework.”

From 2015, A-levels will be solely evaluated through end-of-course tests taken after two years of the sixth form. AS-levels will be kept as individual courses but their results will no longer be taken into account towards a full A-level, which will likely see schools scrapping them altogether.

Ms Brown, whose own girls achieve over 80 per cent of A or A* grades, welcomed these changes, introduced by the former Secretary of Education, Michael Gove.

However, others have been less enthusiastic about the idea of less testing in the latter years of secondary education.
Last year, Cambridge University admissions chiefs said the scrapping of AS-level exams will mean teenagers from England face missing out on degree places.

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