From education to employment

Ofqual unveils tougher GCSEs and A-levels

Qualifications regulator Ofqual has vowed to introduce tougher GCSEs and A-levels over the next two years to ensure more school leavers are ready for employment.

The changes will see science practicals no longer counting towards A-level grades, and maths playing a more important role in subjects such as physics and geography.

They will also place stronger emphasis on end-of-course exams.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said: “We are putting in place arrangements that will allow teachers to focus on teaching their subjects and not just constant assessments. For the new GCSEs and A levels, assessment will be by exam only, except where the essential skills for a subject cannot be tested in an exam.

“Non-exam assessments do not always test the skills they are meant to assess, they can disrupt classroom time better spent on teaching and learning and may provide limited evidence of performance across a group of students if they all get similar marks. Importantly, non-exam assessments can narrow the focus of what is taught, and can be vulnerable to malpractice, meaning the playing field is not level for all students.

“Where there are subjects that include skills that can’t be assessed by exams, we have looked at them individually to develop approaches that best support teaching and learning and that will provide valid and reliable results.”

However, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) warned that implementing too many changes too quickly risked putting learners at a disadvantage.

“We are concerned that introducing such a huge raft of reforms to GCSEs and A-levels so quickly, and in a piecemeal fashion, will put massive pressure on teachers, the awarding bodies and Ofqual and risk jeopardising the reputation of GCSEs and A-levels, ” said ATL general secretary Mary Bousted.

“The young people taking the new GCSEs and A-levels in 2015, 2016 and 2017 risk being severely disadvantaged since their teachers will have had little time to prepare for teaching both a new curriculum and helping students work for the new style exams.”

Natalie Thornhill

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