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.

More on A Level reform

From THE:

[T]he group of 24 large research-intensive universities will seek to establish an advisory body on 10 A-level subjects to help maintain standards.

The working group on the new standards body will be chaired by Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, and will focus on A levels in maths, the sciences, languages, geography, history and Classics.

Read the full article.

A major A-level overhaul

From The Telegraph, by  :

[…] on Wednesday Mr Gove will set out a further reform of the qualification – effectively turning the clock back to the 90s before exams were overhauled by Labour.

[…] under the new plan:

• AS-levels will become a standalone qualification with results no longer counting towards final A-level marks;

• Pupils will be able to take new-style AS-levels over one or two years, with qualifications covering exactly half the content of the full version;

• Full A-levels will be completely separate from AS and turned into “linear” qualifications, with all exams sat at the end of the two-year course.

[…] The move is likely to prove controversial among some universities because it will stop them using AS marks to award provisional places on degree courses.

[…] the Russell Group […] would form a new academic board to advise Ofqual on the content of A-levels.

Read the full article.

Ofqual: Review into exam textbooks published

From Ofqual:

Textbooks linked to qualifications are too focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content, according to new research by Ofqual.

The exams regulator has published its initial findings and action plan into potential conflicts of interest between qualification providers and study aids produced or endorsed by them such as textbooks.

While the report suggests there is only limited evidence that textbooks are having a negative impact on the standards of qualifications, researchers did find evidence supporting concerns about the overall quality of textbooks as learning resources.

Ofqual’s report, entitled Textbooks: Risks and Opportunities, states that “a rather formulaic approach, influenced by current endorsement processes, is resulting in textbooks that are over focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content and signposting to wider and more in-depth reading.”

Tim Leslie, Ofqual’s Director of Risks and Markets, said: “We want to explore further whether endorsement processes can be improved to drive up the quality of learning resources available to teachers”.

Ofqual’s initial research has also triggered further work which is designed to prevent any activities which could undermine confidence in the exam system.

The research highlights particular concerns about the links between publishing and qualification awarding bodies. Pearson has both publishing and awarding interests. Ofqual is launching a review of Pearson’s publishing and awarding activities, which will focus on the effectiveness of the “business separation” between the awarding organisation and its publishing arm.

The report highlights concern that exam-endorsed textbooks are sometimes written by chief examiners. Ofqual found that breaches in confidentiality of exam questions are very rare. However as part of its wider review, Ofqual will set out what role examiners should have in writing textbooks while they are employed as examiners.

Tim Leslie said: “The research has highlighted a lack of agreement about what a ‘good’ textbook looks like. As part of further work in this area we are looking to establish new guidelines.”

Download the report, Textbooks: Risks and Opportunities

A few quotes from the report which mention mathematics:

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Key Stage 4 qualification reform – Secretary of State’s announcement

From DfE:

In the core academic subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate – English, mathematics, sciences, history, geography and languages – the Government intends to replace current GCSE with new qualifications, to be called “English Baccalaureate Certificates”.  The Government will be moving away from the competition between Awarding Organisations to sell their qualifications in these subjects.  Instead of schools choosing between a number of competing GCSEs in these subjects, a competition will be held to identify a single suite of qualifications, offered by a single Awarding Organisation in each subject, for a period of five years.

 A public consultation on these reforms has been launched, which will run until 10th December.  This can be accessed [here].

Click here for quotes from the Consultation Document:

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No A* grades, endless re-sits or marks for coursework?

From Daily Mail:

Michael Gove is to herald an end to a quarter of a century of ‘dumbed-down’ exams this week when he abolishes GCSEs and brings back a tough new O-level style system.

The Education Secretary will announce the new exams on Tuesday in a joint press conference with Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg […]

Under Mr Gove’s shake-up, the

current system whereby nearly three in ten pupils get A or A* grades will go. Instead as few as one in ten will get the top mark, Grade 1. […]

Marks will depend on a traditional ‘all or nothing’ three-hour exam at the end of the two-year course […]

[…] questions in the new exam will be graded, starting with easy questions and building up to difficult questions which will stretch the cleverest pupils.

It means that less able pupils may be unable to complete the paper.[…]

In addition, the new exams will be run by a single exam board following complaints that competition between rival boards is driving down standards. Read more.

And from BBC:

But pupils will not start studying for it until September 2015, after the next general election. The first exams would be taken in 2017.

Watch this space: GCSEs to be set by just one exam board to halt decline?

From The Telegraph:

Competing exam boards will be abolished under sweeping reforms to GCSE-level qualifications to be set viagra soft out by the Coalition next week. […]

Mr Gove hinted at next week’s plans when he appeared before the Commons education committee this week.

The Commons Education  Select Committee’s records are still not published, so we have to wait for details.

‘Extremely ambitious’ timetable for the introduction of new ‘O levels’

Times Educational Supplement (Friday 20 July 2012, No. 5002, p.16) published ‘The leaked timetable for the introduction of new qualifications':

Summer 2012 Exam boards are due to bid for franchises to run exams in English, maths and science.

By Christmas 2012 Winning exam boards are expected to be announced.

September 2013 Final cohort of pupils will start GCSEs.

September 2014 O level-style courses in English, maths and science will begin.

Commons Select Committee on Education: Introduce National Syllabuses

Commons Select Committee on Education published 1st Report – The administration of examinations for 15-19 year olds in England [pdf: Volume I, Volume 2, Volume 3].

From the statement by the Chair of the Committee, Graham Stuart MP:

The public have lost confidence in exam standards and this needs to be put right. We’ve got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how ‘accessible’ their syllabuses are.

You could move to a single national exam board which would stop the ‘race to the bottom’ but the change would be disruptive and threaten innovation and cost control. Alternatively there are benefits to having one exam board per subject but such “franchising” would create its own difficulties over pricing, tendering and the concentration of expertise.

We believe the best reform would be the creation of National Syllabuses. There could be a competition, such as the Secretary of State has already suggested, to decide which exam board would design the syllabus for a particular subject which would then be accredited by the regulator, Ofqual. After that any board could set an exam for that syllabus and compete on innovation, efficiency, service and support. Ofqual would ensure that exam boards didn’t compete by making papers easier and could readily identify problems and make statistical adjustments if necessary.