Ofqual: GCSE coursework ‘is facing the axe’

It has emerged that coursework-style tasks could be scrapped in GCSEs amid fears they damage children’s education and represent a waste of time. The official qualifications watchdog said it was conducting an urgent review into “controlled assessment” because of major concerns over the way the system is run. This is from the Telegraph…

It could lead to the assessments – in which pupils complete coursework projects and extended essays under staff supervision in the classroom – being axed in some or all subjects.

Ofqual said there were concerns over the number of marks attached to coursework, combined with the amount of time taken to complete tasks and the extent to which they differentiate between bright and weak candidates.

Glenys Stacey, the chief regulator, also suggested that assessment may be open to abuse by schools, saying qualifications had to “withstand the pressures of accountability”.

It comes just weeks after the watchdog warned that over-generous marking of English assessment tasks by teachers was one of the main causes of this year’s GCSE grading fiasco.

It followed a study published by the Department for Education earlier this year which found some teachers were using “strategies to help students to get the best grade”, including allowing pupils to rehearse projects in advance. Others were also setting more than one task before “choosing the best for each individual student”, it was revealed.

The Government has already indicated that it is likely to scrap controlled assessment as part of new plans to replace GCSEs in the core subjects with English Baccalaureate Certificates. The new exams will be sat in 2017.

But in a speech to the Independent Academies Association, Ms Stacey said changes to coursework “cannot wait for the big reforms that are coming”, adding: “They need reviewing now to improve the current system.”

She said that the “practical arrangements for [controlled assessment] can be difficult and, in some subjects, it eats unduly into teaching and learning time”.

“We are concerned as well about… the proportion of controlled assessment in some subjects and about the design of controlled assessment in some cases as well,” she said.

Ms Stacey said she was also “concerned about whether controlled assessment can differentiate sufficiently between students and provide stretch and challenge”.

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