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.

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.

 

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 announces changes to A levels

A press release from Ofqual:

Ofqual has today (Friday, 9 November) announced that from September 2013 students in England will no longer be able to sit A level exams in January, after the proposal received strong support following a three month consultation into A level reform. The change will also address recent concerns over how many times students can sit their exams by reducing resit opportunities. [...]

Key findings from the consultation are published today and show support for:

  • the principle of higher education engagement with A level design, however there was less support for universities “endorsing” each A-level
  • students being assessed at the end of each of their first and second year of study
  • the removal of January exams and reduced resit opportunities
  • increasing synoptic assessment in A levels, allowing students to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth
  • reducing internal assessment.

Full text of the press release. Related reports:

 

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:

Continue reading

New exams without trials?

From The Guardian:

Education Guardian has learned that Ofqual, the exams regulator, has quietly abandoned a promise to ensure that all major exam reforms are piloted in advance. This means that the next big set of changes – the much-discussed introduction of English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) to replace GCSEs, initially in

English, maths and science, from 2015 – are likely to go ahead without any conventional pre-trials.

Read the full article.

Ofqual: Recruitment of Key Stage 2 subject experts

A colleague brought to my attention to the following advertisement from Ofqual:

“Recruitment of Key Stage 2 subject experts

[...] We are keen to hear from you if you feel you have a suitable level of experience in Key Stage 2 education and assessment, specifically in reading, writing, mathematics or science. You might be a current or ex-teacher or marker, or have other relevant experience in developing or delivering Key Stage 2 assessments. [...]“

He has also raised his concerns:

“I have a gut feeling that any set of minimal requirements for “Key Stage 2 subject experts” invited to  work on “developing Key Stage 2 assessments” should include (at least in case of mathematics) some experience of teaching and assessment not only at KS2, but also at KS3 level. For otherwise how can they ensure the continuity and cohesion of pupils’ study?”

My opinion is that there are few people who will have the necessary experience of both KS2 and KS3 teaching experience and assessment development. They are more likely to find people with the KS2 experience only – of course KS3 experience as well would be a bonus, but most people (I should probably say teachers here) are primary or secondary, not both. People in middle schools (ages 9-13) would have bridged the KS2/3 divide, but perhaps would not have seen the curriculum through to the end of KS3. I think that if they stipulated the KS2/3 requirement then they would be faced with a dearth of applicants!

I was always amazed that pupils who came into secondary education with level 5 mathematics at KS2 never really seemed to have a grasp of the topics at that level – even many of those with level 4 struggled with level 4 in KS3. Now this could have been the 6  week lay-off they had over the summer, or the fact that they had been crammed for the KS2 mathematics SAT tests to get the best results for their primary school data. However there seemed to be little correlation between the algebra at level 5 which was tested at KS2 and the algebra at level 5 for KS3, the latter always seemingly the harder. Unfortunately I do not have any hard data to back up my opinion – it is just a gut reaction. One has to believe in the integrity of the powers that oversee these tests (QCA, QCDA, Ofqual or whatever) and that continuity did and will take place.