Chief examiner confesses that the exam boards are "in the dark" and that the situation is "dreadful"

Francis Gilbert's picture
I was speaking to a chief examiner for a leading exam board this week and this person confessed to me that the board didn't have a clue about what was happening regarding the changes to various exams First, they still had no firm direction from the DfE about what type of GCSEs and A Levels were to be in place in September 2013. Let's not forget amidst all the furore about the new "Gove" levels to start in 2015, that there are very major changes happening next year with modules being dropped in GCSEs and supposedly A Levels. Except the problem is the exam boards themselves don't actually know what is going to happen next year; they've been given no clear directions from Ofqual as to how the re-modelled GCSEs and A Levels should look. The syllabi for these new GCSEs and A Levels will inevitably be rushed and unsatisfactory; there's very little time for consultation with teachers; syllabi for countless subjects need to be re-written, new exams put in place, new marking rubics and so forth in what amounts to 8-9 months. Don't forget, teachers will need to know what the exams look like in the summer of next year in order to plan out their teaching. It's hopeless teaching a course when you don't know how it's going to be assessed!

Timetables seem to keep changing. First, we were going to have a new National Curriculum, then A Levels were going to be changed, and then GCSEs. Now GCSEs are going to be changed first, then possibly A Levels -- although the examiner I spoke to didn't know when this was happening -- and God knows what's happened to the National Curriculum. That seems to be dropped amidst the kerfuffle of the changes to GCSEs -- which, after all the changes to be made, will be ditched anyway!

The picture that's building up is one of chaos. There was supposed to be a new National Curriculum in place by next year -- but this is now on the backburner while the changes to exams at all ages are supposedly instituted. New tests are supposed to be coming in at primary, secondary and sixth form level next year. However, there are real problems with changes assessments when the actual curriculum isn't clear; the logical thing to do is to change the curriculum and then the assessment arrangements; that way pupils are being taught the "right stuff" and are simply tested as to whether they know it. What's happening is that the assessment arrangements are changing with no clear guidance on what the curriculum's aims, purposes and rationale are. Everything is being changed "on the hoof" and at the last minute. And then, we now know it will be junked in a few years anyway because entirely new qualifications are coming in.

No wonder the chief examiner told me that the situation was "dreadful".

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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 22/09/2012 - 09:19

Gove is in the cabin of a runaway train. It's gathering speed and is about to crash into the buffers. The tragedy is that millions of English state school pupils are reluctant travellers in the carriages - and all parents and teachers can do is watch.

Sparky Clarky's picture
Sat, 22/09/2012 - 13:21

Thank you for this. The impression Give has given in the past is of a slick and capable operator, even if I didn't agree with his politics. Now it's more like a very confused despot who has shot his bolt and needs to go. He is motivated by ideology rather than good reason. He's got to go.

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