Rebecca Hanson: National Assessment Reform – Where are we now?

R. Hanson, National Assessment Reform – Where are we now? The De Morgan Gazette 5 no. 5 (2014), 33-39.

This short report summarises the pending changes to national assessment at 4/5, 6/7, 10/11, 15/16 and 17/18.  It attempts to list the key concerns about the reforms and to describe the likely imminent calls for modifications.

It can also be downloaded as a word document here:
National Assessment Reform Where are we now 1 Sept 2014

If you have any questions you can contact the author.

GCSE: Higher level content

Reformed GCSE subject content includes three types of content: standard, underlined and bold. In the words of he document,

The expectation is that:

  • All students will develop confidence and competence with the content identified by standard type
  • All students will be assessed on the content identified by the standard and the underlined [here, for technical reasons, emphasised -- AB] type; more highly attaining students will develop confidence and competence with all of this content
  • Only the more highly attaining students will be assessed on the content identified by bold type. The highest attaining students will develop confidence and competence with the bold content.

The distinction between standard, underlined and bold type applies to the content statements only, not to the assessment objectives or to the mathematical formulae in the appendix.

What follows is the list of items in the  Mathematics GCSE subject content and assessment objectives which contain bold type, higher content.I think this short lists clearly marks the boundaries of GCSE — AB

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GCSE and A-level reforms timetable delayed

Ofqual has published an exchange of letters with the Secretary of State about the next  steps for A level and GCSE reform. In short, Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief regulator, told the education secretary that new A-level examinations in Mathematics and Further Mathematics would not be ready until 2016.Regarding GCSEs, she wrote:
It is clear that the amount of work needed on GCSEs, including the development of strengthened regulator arrangements, means we cannot be confident that new, high-quality GCSEs in all subjects could be ready in good time for first teaching from 2015″ …
We have therefore decided that we should focus the GCSE reform programme initially on English language, English literature and mathematics, which are the subjects where there are the biggest concerns.

Ofqual has also published the report by Professor Mark Smith on the exam boards’ subject-by-subject review of A level content requirement:

Schools ask pupils to sit GCSE maths exams twice

From The Independent:

Thousands of teenagers are being put in for multiple GCSE maths exams in the hope they will get crucial C grade passes in at least one of them.

The practice is exposed by the exams regulator Ofqual today as it reveals that 15 per cent of candidates sitting GCSEs  – around 90,000 candidates – were last year submitted for maths exams with more than one board. Ofqual officials believe there will be a repeat this year because the pressures that drove schools to do it  – including boosting performances in league tables – are still there.

Read the full article.

GCSE reform announcement

From the official announcement:

In February, the Secretary of State announced plans for the comprehensive reform of GCSEs, so that young people have access to qualifications which match and exceed those of the highest performing jurisdictions.

The Department is now seeking views on proposed subject content and assessment objectives for new GCSEs. Proposed subject content for reformed GCSEs in English language, English literature, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, combined science (double award), history, geography, modern languages and ancient languages, as well as the Reformed GCSE Subject Content Consultation document are available here on the Department’s website. The consultation will run from 11 June until 22 August. We would very much welcome your views.

In parallel with this consultation Ofqual are consulting on the revised regulatory requirements for the reformed GCSEs. The Ofqual consultation will be available here.

Report from Demos: Detoxifying school accountability

A report from Demos, published today. From Executive Summary:

This report strongly argues that the current model of accountability is profoundly toxic and is failing to achieve its stated goal of improving education. It sets out an alternative
regime, which would allow all children to achieve their potential, while ensuring the quality of education in schools is of a high standard. [...]

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Labour would reverse Gove’s A-level plan

From BBC:

Labour will reverse many of the coalition’s changes to A-levels if it wins the next election, shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan has told England’s exam regulator.

In a letter to Ofqual, Mr Brennan said Labour could not support “a policy that undermines both rigour and equity”[...]

Mr Brennan, writing to the chief exams regulator, Glenys Stacey, said “the weight of opposition” to decoupling the two sets of qualifications [A and AS levels --AB] was “overwhelming

He said the move would narrow students’ A-level choices, remove a key indicator for assessing university applicants and undermine progress in widening access to higher education. [...]

I understand that the secretary of state’s position on this constitutes a policy direction to you, but in undertaking your work we think that it is important to signal clearly what our position will be following the next general election.

It is on this basis that I write to you to inform you that a future Labour government in 2015 would not proceed with the decoupling of AS and A-levels.

The letter says that under Labour AS-levels would continue to be building blocks towards A-levels and students would continue to choose which AS-level subjects they take as full A-levels.

Mr Brennan also raises concerns about other aspects of the government’s plan, including “linear assessment for all subjects at the end of two years of study, the rushed timetable for implementation, and the limited evidence base on which the proposals have been made“.

A Labour spokesman added that further consultation with subject experts was needed before deciding the exact form of assessment for each A-level.

Read the whole article.

 

Russel Group’s comment on AS level reform

From the statement by Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group:

“Results from AS-levels taken in Year 12 are useful to universities in the admissions process, especially in considering applications for the most competitive courses. [...]

“Whilst we have welcomed the Government’s review of the modular structure of the A-level, we do not believe this need be extended to the complete removal of the AS examination from the A-level.”

Primary maths pupils to be measured against top Asian countries?

From The Telegraph:

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum on maths, Stefano Pozzi, the assistant director of the national curriculum review division at the Department for Education, said [...] [r]eferring to the maths curriculum [...]: “Really, we are setting a much higher benchmark than we currently do now.

“How we’ve done that is in part through benchmarking against the expectations in high performing countries. Basically, politicians ask – and they’re right to – why we are expecting less of our young than they expect in other countries where kids do well?”

Speaking after the forum, [...] [h]e added: “If you look at what we’re expecting kids to do with fractions – that’s the most obvious thing that we’re doing and proportional reasoning. That stuff kids find hard and adults find hard.”