We welcomed new members to the AQA Student Advisory Group at a virtual reception, with special guests from the world of education and politics.
The event gave the new members the chance to meet with each other and the existing members of the group, as well as put some questions to our guests, who are both heavily involved in education at a government level.
AQA's Student Advisory Group gives young people, who are still in school, a voice in the exam system. The selected students meet three to four times a year, aiming to provide AQA with students’ insights and perspectives on key areas of assessment and help us to make important decisions about the future of exams.
Due to the current situation we held the event online, but there was still plenty of interesting discussions and idea-sharing. It was also a chance for the new members to get to meet each other and some of the people they would be working with over the coming year.
The event was opened by AQA‘s Director of Corporate Affairs, Michael Turner, who welcomed everyone and explained how the evening would work. He then introduced our guest speakers, the Rt Hon David Laws – former Minster for Schools and now chair of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), and Christian Wakeford MP for Bury and member of the Education Select Committee.
David welcomed being invited to attend and was pleased to see young people taking such an interest in politics and the future of education, Christian also commented that more young people should be engaged and listened to by politicians and senior leaders, on the issues that directly impact them and their futures.
After speaking, they fielded some questions from the group before we moved onto the breakout sessions, where participants divided into groups and discussed particular aspects of assessment and school life.
There were some very interesting ideas put forward by the young people about how they might like assessment and examinations to look in the future and what other skills could be taught. They also discussed how environmental factors and support issues also have a major impact on how well students perform in school, and that improvements to these could see an uplift in exam results for many young people.
David Laws, Chair of the Education Policy Institute, said:
“I'm really pleased that AQA has got this Student Group together to challenge them, and to challenge thinking in the education policy space.
“I've always found being able to talk to and listen to the people experiencing education now gives you an understanding and a feel for the subject that you simply can't get when you're sitting in an office in Whitehall or Westminster or looking at the raw education data at an education institute.
“It gives you a really strong sense of what the issues are that you need to focus on and a nudge as to what some of the right education solutions might be.”
Christian Wakeford, MP for Bury and member of the Education Select Committee, said:
“I think one of the many issues is we don't hear enough from young people, from students and pupils, and for me it's one of the best parts of my job – I love going into schools and having school visits around Parliament.
“It's inspiring to see future generations putting themselves forward for initiatives like AQA's Student Advisory Group.”
The event was closed by outgoing Chair of the Group, Victoria Wong, who reflected on her time as chair and member of the group.
“It’s been an incredible pleasure witnessing the Student Advisory Group flourish from a small group of 15 students at the start of 2019, to what is now a growing network of peers all over the UK three years later.
“AQA has empowered young change-makers to speak their voice, which has left a positive impression of the future for me, as I’m sure it will do for new and future members to come.”