Exam reform: Ofqual urges ‘extended period of stability’

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The examinations regulator Ofqual has sent a clear message to politicians and ministers asking them not to “tinker” any further with the examinations system after May’s General Election.

The examinations regulator Ofqual has sent a clear message to politicians and ministers asking them not to “tinker” any further with the examinations system after May’s General Election.

In a speech in London last week, chief regulator Glenys Stacey said the new-look exams system would benefit from an “extended period of stability”. 

She continued: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to make changes that are well thought through and principled. Change has never been attempted in this way before and it will result in materially better qualifications that best reflect the needs of students and learners.

“As such, I would ask any incoming government to consider carefully before tinkering under the bonnet of GCSEs and A levels in the near future.”

For example, she referenced the stated intention of the Labour Party to re-couple AS and A level qualifications should it win the election.

She said: “We continue to hold a neutral stance. If any new government wishes to change policy and re-couple, that can be done. However I would stress that assessment reform is not easy.”

She said that consultations had already taken place with exam boards on more than 40 subjects at GCSE and A level for first teaching from this September and in 2016, which had resulted in “many innovative ideas being put forward”.

She added: “Our changes do not begin and end at exam board specifications, we have been reflecting and redesigning a number of other aspects of the assessment process.

“Some of our decisions have been contentious however, as we expected: for example our decision to implement new assessment arrangements for practical skills in A level biology, physics and chemistry.

“In each case, we have considered carefully the assessment and awarding arrangements most likely to deliver the best educational experience and outcomes for students. They are the end user after all.”

Ms Stacey said that after “unprecedented reform”, confidence in the examinations system needed to be earned.

“As the new qualifications are taught and assessments are undertaken, all parties would benefit from an extended period of stability,” 

Ms Stacey added. “In particular, teachers would gain confidence in the qualifications and their ability to teach the new curriculum and those who use and observe the new assessments could be reassured that they are achieving their goals.

“The upcoming General Election brings a degree of uncertainty to this aspiration.”

Ms Stacey concluded: “We have been given a clear vision for GCSEs and A levels and we are redesigning heir assessment with the end user in mind. Our students will therefore have confidence that the qualification they receive at the end of their studies has a great deal of worth, to both them and those looking at their results.”

Qualifications Reform: Timeline

GCSEs

  • September 2015: First teaching for English language, English literature, maths.
  • September 2016: First teaching for geography, history, biology, chemistry, physics, double science, modern foreign languages, ancient languages, RE, art and design, drama, dance, music, PE, computer science, citizenships studies, food preparations and nutrition.
  • Summer 2017: First exams for English language, English literature, maths.
  • September 2017: First teaching of remaining GCSEs, including design and technology.
  • Summer 2018: First exams for geography, history, biology, chemistry, physics, double science, modern foreign languages, ancient languages, RE, art and design, drama, dance, music, PE, computer science, citizenships studies, food preparations and nutrition.

AS and A level

  • September 2015: First teaching (AS and A levels) for biology, chemistry, physics, English language, English literature, English language and literature, art and design, business, computer science, economics, history, sociology, psychology
  • Summer 2016: First exams in new AS levels taught from September 2015.
  • September 2016: First teaching (AS and A levels) in modern foreign languages, ancient languages, geography, RE, drama and theatre, dance, music, PE.
  • Summer 2017: First exams (A levels) for biology, chemistry, physics, English language, English literature, English language and literature, art and design, business, computer science, economics, history, sociology, psychology. 
  • Summer 2017: First exams in new AS levels taught from September 2016.
  • September 2017: First teaching of remaining AS and A levels, including maths, further maths and design and technology.
  • Summer 2018: First exams (A levels) for modern foreign languages, ancient languages, geography, RE, drama and theatre, dance, music and PE.
Photo: iStock


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