The appearance of Covid-19 and the subsequent global pandemic can be characterised as a ‘Black Swan’ event. The Black Swan theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and describes an event that is completely unexpected, has a significant impact, and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact and with the benefit of hindsight.

As humans, we have an innate desire to find a simple solution to a problem. This propensity tends to lead us to make decisions based on our prior experiences, scientific knowledge and accepted norms. If it is easy to measure and easy to categorise then we like it.  However, in a Black Swan event there is no prior experience from which to draw and as such any decisions arrived upon are blinded by these psychological biases. As such we struggle to rationalise what has happened and how to address it. 

Rather than trying to keep with the accepted norm and making our pupils take examinations mimicking the normal exam series, at Downside we have given our Upper Sixth Form pupils a different option…

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