News at a glance

Ofqual defends seminars branded exam 'cheating'

Ofqual, the regulator investigating a newspaper sting uncovering exam "cheating", has defended exam boards' use of seminars to give teachers advice on qualifications. It said the events, described by the Daily Telegraph as "secretive", had their place and that it was legitimate for discussions to take place on candidates' knowledge and the skills expected from examiners and how they should be demonstrated. But Ofqual also said there were lines that should not be crossed and has ordered the withdrawal of an ICT GCSE paper from Welsh board WJEC, after a reporter found teachers had been told which part of the syllabus would be assessed. The regulator has decided not to immediately stop the 4,000 exam board seminars held every year because it would only leave the market open to the unregulated parallel private market, exposed in TES last week.

1 in 6 heads snubs new teacher assessments

One in six primary school heads have opted to have an externally marked key stage 2 writing test this year rather than carry out the new teacher assessments. This year, most schools were given the option of having a writing test set and marked externally or carrying out internal assessment of pupils' writing. The way writing is assessed at the end of primary will change in 2013 when all schools will be expected to carry out assessment of composition and a separate spelling, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation test.

Early years 'snapshots' prove too complicated

Unpopular assessments for early years pupils in Wales are due to be scrapped following a barrage of complaints. Teachers in the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds are expected to monitor up to 114 kinds of behaviour in each of their pupils to provide a "snapshot" of their abilities. But the Welsh Government has ordered an independent expert review of the child development assessment profiles after teachers said they were complicated, unreliable and inconsistently applied. A revised profile will be introduced from the start of the 201314 school year.

Think-tank launches 20th-century history GCSE

A pilot GCSE in 20th-century history, which has been designed to be more academically rigorous than existing qualifications, will be launched next month by the Better History Forum think-tank. Stretching from the First World War to 911, the first year of the course will focus on giving an overview of the 20th century, including the world wars, the development of modern Britain and the rise of the Soviet Union, while in the second year students will examine political ideologies and the growth of emerging nations.

School exercise experiments to honour Olympic athletes

Every pupil in the UK will be able to celebrate the Olympics by conducting science experiments on their bodies to find out how they work during exercise. Equipment provided by the Wellcome Trust will be sent to all schools so children can understand more about the feats of human performance on show at the games in London next summer. The In the Zone initiative will be formally launched by five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave (pictured) at the Association for Science Education conference in Liverpool in January.

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