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Schools 'in the dark' about new GCSEs

Ignorance about next year's courses is worrying examiners, Julie Henry reports

TEACHERS have an "alarming knowledge gap" about the new GCSEs which they will teach from September.

The OCR exam board has taken the unusual step of reporting that secondary school staff are in the dark about "dramatic differences" to some subjects.

Dr Ron McLone, OCR's chief executive, said: "We are really worried. The feedback we are getting from the classroom is that there is little awareness of next year's courses."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the pressure of the post-16 overhauls meant teacher had not had time to do much else.

The changes to GCSEs are a result of the Government's five-year review of the national curriculum. Thirty titles were scrapped and in some subjects, such as design and technology and home economics, the number of syllabuses offered has been cut by half.

Revisions include more staged assessment in maths and science and the study of interdependence, sustainability and global citizenship in geography.

* Meanwhile, the league table of exam board performance published this week revealed that twice as may GCSE results and a third more A-level marks were upgraded on appeal last summer than in the previous year.

A total of 57,772 GCSE candidate entries (1 per cent of all entries) were queried last year, with 6,601 upgrades. At A-level, 29,628 candidates' entries were questioned (3.8 per cent of all entries), and 4,644 were upgraded.

The number of grade changes still represents only 0.1 per cent of more than 5.5 million papers.

The performance of exam boards in dealing with urgent queries improved markedly, according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority report. Where university places were at risk, the five boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland dealt with 95 per cent or more queries within the 30-day target.

* More than 10,000 sixth-form and FE students were given the wrong key skills exam results because of a computer error.

A total of 3,705 student who were told they passed the information technology test should have failed and 7,466 who failed the communication and application of number tests have now been upgraded to a pass. Edexcel, the board which made the mistakes, said pupils taking resits would be entered free of charge.

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