Beyond the grades – the need for recruitment based on skills and competencies

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Carol Davison, Head Teacher, St Cuthbert’s Catholic School, on why employers need to look beyond grades to ensure young people are not left behind when they take the step from education to employment.

Exam results day is always one filled with emotions, from jubilation to upset, shock to relief. This year will contain all these emotions but is overlaid with a wider sense of the unknown for our young people and schools.

As a Head Teacher, I know that my students are much more than the grades that they receive.

Overnight COVID-19 changed the way that our students accessed learning, highlighting the divide between those that have access to technology and those that do not. For our students due to sit exams at the end of term and take that step from formal education into further study, training or employment, it has meant applying a completely different assessment framework.

The grades that they will receive today are not built from final exams; instead they are made up of a combination of teacher assessment and a schools’ previous performance in exams. Last week we saw the impact that this had on the results of the most disadvantaged students in Scotland, who under a similar approach appear to have had their teachers’ estimates downgraded.

Essential skills

As a Head Teacher, I know that my students are much more than the grades that they receive. My fear, however, is that so many of our structures and processes around accessing university or gaining that first job are based on demonstrating that you have achieved a certain level through your GCSEs or A-Levels.

In response to COVID-19 a number of employers, such as BT, have removed the requirement to give an outcome around a degree level, requiring simply that candidates demonstrate they completed the course and that they have the skills and behaviours needed for the role. This move to recruit based on skills as opposed to results is one that I think will support students as they deal with a changed assessment framework and the recession that is yet to hit.

Embedding skills such as teamwork, resilience, leadership and communication within the students I teach has been a priority for me. I hope that these essential skills will enable future employers to see beyond the grades and to the potential. If we are to ensure that our students are not left behind and instead that they are integral to how we all build back better – then I hope more employers will look beyond the grade and recruit based on skills and competencies.

Find out more about BITC’s campaign Build Back Responsibly and ways you can get involved.

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