I wanted to share a picture of one of my students with you. His mum has given me permission to use the picture but asked that I call him by another name. So I shall call him Karl. When I say one of ‘my’ students I don’t really mean that. He is part of a home education community group called PLACE who, when it suits their needs, commission teachers to come in and teach them. I am not a teacher, as it happens, but I facilitate both Arts Award and the AQA project qualification with them.

The AQA qualification is best described as a content-free but process rigorous qualification; learners can choose a topic of their choice and respond to it in a medium of their choice.

The AQA qualification is interested in authentic assessment. It encourages learners and their guides to find ways that they can test their learning that suits the nature of their project. This year we came together in a local theatre, also called The Place, where the students held stalls, put on fashion shows, showed films and gave presentations. Karl gave a Powerpoint Presentation and had a stall. He had made a model of a particular Victorian garden for his project. He told us that if we could go back in time and show his model to the Victorian gardeners they would recognize it as their own.

I was pleased with the use of the theatre. It gave us a range of spaces that the students could choose from and so a range of presentation methods. The ambience of the theatre added something to the nature of the spoken presentations for sure. But in many ways it was still only an imitation of the real thing, like learning to drive in a car park.

The really impressive stuff happened after the projects were handed in. Karl had shown his model to the head gardener of the garden he modeled. The gardener was so impressed he contacted English Heritage. English Heritage contacted Karl. They wanted to see him and his model. Karl has now got appointments with a number of magazines to give interviews and talk about his work.

It matters not one bit what grade he gets for that piece of work – what matters is that it has been authentically assessed by experts in the field and found to be of an extremely high quality. What if more kids had opportunities like that? What if they could truly understand the value of their work? To do this we need to let them out on the road more.

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