No tears shed for death of coursework

Some teachers feel relieved to escape pressure on them to help pupils cheat

teachers are welcoming the abolition of conventional coursework from most GCSE subjects, as several admitted to telling their pupils what to write because of the pressure on schools to raise results.

The TES and the National Union of Teachers sought staff views, and anecdotal feedback has revealed teachers to be three-to-one in favour of government plans to ditch unsupervised GCSE assignments from 2009.

Last autumn, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority proposed removing coursework from nine GCSEs, including English literature, history, geography and languages.

In their place, supervised tasks would be introduced. One favoured model would be to give schools a choice of board-devised tasks, which teachers would set for pupils in supervised conditions, then mark internally.

Other subjects, including art and design, music and physical education, would retain coursework, but in more controlled circumstances. In maths, exam-only GCSEs begin this September.

A discussion in the TES online staffroom centred on how coursework had been undermined because of pressure to get results.

One said: "If coursework doesn't go soon, we'll be giving them a template and telling them what to write in the spaces."

A history teacher told the NUT that in their school the head was "cheating"

by requiring staff not to accept coursework unless it was at or above the pupil's target mark.

An ICT teacher said: "The coursework moves like a tennis ball between student and teacher until it fits the marking criteria and until the predicted grade of the school is achieved."

But some teachers are vehemently opposed to the abolition of coursework.

A QCA survey of 700 staff, carried out last year before it made its recommendations and covering seven subjects, found most opposed coursework abolition.

John Bangs, of the NUT, said: "The thing that teachers cling on to is that coursework gives youngsters who were scared at the prospect of an examination the chance to express themselves.

"But many are not happy with the current model. There needs to be fairly intensive piloting, and maybe investigations of different approaches on teacher assessment, before any changes are made."

The QCA will publish a report giving further details on its plans next month.

CHANGES AFOOT

Maths coursework to be scrapped from September 2007.

Business studies, classical subjects, economics, English literature, geography, history, modern languages, RE and social sciences coursework to be replaced by controlled assessment from 2009.

Art and design, design and technology, home economics, music and PE: coursework retained.

Science: no change (coursework already supervised).

English, ICT: yet to be decided.

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