Exam changes create 'barriers' for distance learners to sit GCSEs and A levels

8th August 2016 at 18:17
Ucas stresses that private candidates sitting exams plays a 'key role' in widening participation

New rules are creating "barriers" for for distance learners sitting GCSE and A-level examinations, according to the National Extension College (NEC).

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) has also waded into the debate, with chief executive Mary Curnock Cook arguing that it is in favour of “widening participation” to learners whose circumstances have made it difficult for them to attend school or college.

From this year, non-examined assessments – which include coursework, oral exams and science practical exams – must now be submitted through one exam entry in a single location, after changes were made by the Joint Council for Qualification (JCQ).

Private candidates will have to find and attend exam centres in order to sit their examinations and have their coursework assessed.

The NEC, which provides distance learning opportunities for about 4,000 students, say that the changes to how exams are assessed make it "much more difficult" for private learners to attend university or get a well-paid job.

'Putting up barriers'

Ros Morpeth, chief executive of the NEC, told TES: “Putting up barriers makes it that much more difficult for them to go to university, get a good job and earn more,” she said. “The proposed changes to non-examined assessment will give private candidates yet another hoop to jump through. I appeal to JCQ and its members to look again at the plans.”

Ms Curnock Cook  said: “Ucas is a strong supporter of widening participation and ensuring that private candidates are able to undertake qualifications independently plays a key role in this.”

A JCQ spokesperson said: "It’s always been the case that, for GCSE controlled assessments, the school or college that makes the entry must arrange for supervision, authentication and marking. To maintain the standard and integrity of qualifications and a consistent system for all students, this has now been extended to cover non-exam assessment in reformed GCE and GCSE qualifications.”

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