Graeme Paton in The Telegraph:
Examiners will be expected to enlist the help of at least 20 British universities when drafting exam syllabuses and test questions as part of a major drive to raise standards, the Telegraph has learned.
All new qualifications will require a formal “sign-off” from universities – particularly leading research institutions – before being sat by sixth-formers.
The reforms, to be outlined on Tuesday by Ofqual, the qualifications regulator, are intended to ensure teenagers have the appropriate levels of subject knowledge and study skills required to get the most out of a degree course.
Read the whole article.
Later addition: see the letter from Michael Gove and response from Glenys Stacey. A key phrase in Gove’s letter:
Different subjects have different requirements; I am interested in your views as to how the system should develop to allow for approaches to — for example — mathematics that provide for differential level of challenge.
From the Glenys Stacey’s response:
Making sure that A levels are fit for purpose means getting four things right: subject content (curriculum), teaching, assessment and level of demand. We would look to universities, working with learned societies and awarding organisations, to agree the subject content of A levels. Ofqual would be happy to work with whatever arrangements are put in place to do this, provided that they enable universities to develop high quality content. We will want to be sure that respected university departments and learned societies support the content defined for each new A level. Content will vary to some extent between different A levels in the same subject, but we would want to see all A levels being widely accepted. So even if a particular A level is developed by a small group of universities, we would want to see a significant number of key universities signed up to it. We will look to the university sector to put in place sensible arrangements for this as soon as possible.
The Russell Group of leading universities said they were “certainly willing to give as much time as we can into giving advice to the exam boards”.
But Wendy Piatt, the group’s director general, cautioned: “We don’t actually have much time and resource spare to spend a lot of time in reforming A levels.”
From The Guardian:
Mark Fuller, director of communications of the 1994 Group, which represents small, research-intensive universities, said it was “absolutely right that leading universities and academics have an influence on A-level qualifications alongside others, including employers”.
He said: “This influence must not be restricted to any single group of institutions which, by definition provide higher education only for a minority of 18-year-olds. Universities and employers need A-levels which are robust, fit for purpose and which recognise academic excellence. This excellence is widely distributed across the UK’s higher education sector.”
Julie Henry in The Telegraph, 19 Feb 2012:
School exam papers are to be vetted by university academics in a radical overhaul of the A-levels set by one of the country’s biggest exam board.
Mathematicians, historians and scientists from leading universities are working with the OCR board on the design of new “gold standard” syllabuses and assessments.
Universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, University College London, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Durham, Surrey, Warwick and York are involved in the programme which covers nine subject areas.