This was published of behalf of Trevor Fisher who had problems posting.
The exam reform programme hit serious problems in mid January, with proposed changes to Performance changes to disable the IGCSE programme only the tip of the iceberg (already discussed on LSN
). A Level andAS have dominated attention, with the UCAS report issued 16th January, UNPACKING QUALIFICATIONS REFORM
showing teachers uncertain and confused about what they have to do for September. With 8 months togo, no one is telling teachers what the rules are . However while the problems are mounting at A Level, they are resolvable if Labour wins the election and sticks to policy to recouple AS and A Level exams.
The wider problem of GCSE is escalating. The attempt to eliminate IGCSE via Performance Table tactics
intensifies the credibility crisis which led ASCL and other organisations to set up their own league tables
in the autumn. With the annual Peformance Tables distorted by political decisions, their case is strong but they will be ignored. The Performance tables, due out this week, have long been gamed and the politics need to be understood. Inevitably the media will parrot the government statistics and ignore the ASCL table.
However it is GCSE which is now critical. The issue of IGCSE being removed from the Performance Tables is important, as IGCSEs are international and cannot be manipulated for national political purposes. The current issue is however that OFQUAL claims the IGCSE is not compatible with the new systems – but the new systems are not working, and the key failure to pilot or pre-trial the new exams is now undermining the new exams. This was shown by the maths problem which emerged at the turn of the year. On January 21st the regulator OFQUAL responded to claims that the AQA maths approach was too easy by announcing a research programme
. But as this is being done AFTER the AQA approach was accredited and its specifications are in schools, this raises the deeper question – how valid are its procedures?
Piloting and Pre- testing.
OFQUAL under CEO Glenys Stacey has claimed piloting and pre-testing is not possible, but Warwick Mansell in the Guardian of 1st October 2012
found that the objections were not valid. Indeed, OFQUAL had itself piloted the linked pair of GCSEs in Mathematics proposals in 2012. (27th September 2012). SOSS (Symposium on Sustainable Schools) joined those calling for all exams to be piloted – trialled – or pre-tested to show they work. At a conference on exam reform on October 21st 2013 at NASUWT HQ I directly asked Glenys Stacey to pre test the new exams. She responded that this was impossible, a position later confirmed in writing. In the Times Ed Supp of August 8th last
Professor Richard Pring and I wrote calling for piloting of all exams. There was no response.
The testing plans announced on 21st January focus on the issues around the AQA maths GCSE, though their proposals had been accredited by OFQUAL. AQA said “our maths GCSE was... tested by our research centre with real GCSE students to ensure that it is sufficiently demanding”. Which raises the question, why did OFQUAL not do this? OFQUAL has now written to schools asking for volunteers to sit reformed mock GCSE papers. Is this a valid response? Can OFQUAL judge how it has handled an already accredited qualification?
Is the Reform Process credible?
The issues are not confined to maths, they raise questions about the whole regulatory reform process. Sue Pope of the Association of Maths Teachers (ATM) suggested the accreditation of the examination had happened too fast
. Is this also true of other reformed exam courses due to start in September? Have they been driven by an election timetable, as Laura McInerney suggested in the Guardian of November 18th last
? And is this decision to pilot – belatedly and inadequately – objective? Only a genuinely independent inquiry into the Maths specifications divorced from the regulator can restore confidence. OFQUAL's credibility is now at stake.
Trevor Fisher January 25th 2015