Experts fear ‘race to the bottom’ after Ofqual drops extra science GCSE checks

The TES is reporting that Ofqual has called off plans to use extra checks on GCSE science papers, after concerns they were not pitched at the right level, in a move that experts warn could encourage a “race to the bottom” by exam boards. 

…TES can reveal that information gathered from the extra checks on the science papers, in which 100 science teachers were asked this summer to judge the difficulty of more than 6,000 exam questions, will not be part of the approval process for the new exams. 

Instead, the papers will go through the standard accreditation process that Ofqual uses for all GCSEs before teachers start teaching the new-style science courses from next September.

A spokesman for Ofqual told TES that the extra checks “didn’t work in the way we would have hoped” and that the watchdog had been unable to “use the evidence in the way we intended”, although he could not provide details of what had gone wrong with the process. 

Alan Smithers, an assessment expert at the University of Buckingham, told TES the decision risked creating a “race to the bottom” in which boards tried to make their sample assessment materials easier than those of other boards.  

He said there was an “incentive” for boards to do this, “because they want to attract as many customers as possible, which means making it easier for students to get the top grades”.

Read the full story in today’s edition of TES.

More at: Experts fear ‘race to the bottom’ after Ofqual drops extra science GCSE checks


This sounds a bit odd – any thoughts or insights into what might not have worked out with these extra checks?

And do you share the concerns of Professor Smithers that this move might end up creating a “race to the bottom” in standards?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. This doesn’t bode well for the reformed GCSEs.  It appears Gove’s move to inject ‘rigour’ might be having the opposite effect.  Time for schools to move to IGCSEs, perhaps, irrespective of effect on league table position.

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