Coursework rethink targets GCSE Net

29th September 2006 at 01:00
GCSE coursework is to be dropped completely from maths and will be supervised in many other subjects to prevent pupils using the internet to cheat, it was announced this week. Maths will become exam-only from 2007.

Other subjects, with some exceptions, including PE, will introduce supervised internal assessment from the following year.

The moves were trailed by Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, at the Labour conference before a formal announcement by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority next month. "Technology has changed the way we teach, but it has also been used by some students to gain unfair advantage," Mr Johnson said. "After a detailed review I can announce today that we will remove all GCSE coursework from maths and in other subjects coursework will be supervised.

"We have one of the most rigorous exams systems in the world. We cannot have it devalued and undermined by the few who cheated, copying from the internet."

Coursework in maths GCSE is widely seen as formulaic and predictable. A clear majority consulted last year by the QCA said it should be scrapped.

The announcement comes a week after The TES revealed how, after campaigns by teachers, A-level coursework is to be preserved in many subjects from 2008, despite QCA threats to remove it.

However, one A-level which has not escaped the coursework axe is psychology. This week teachers claimed they had not been consulted about the decision.

Psychology, the fifth most popular A-level this year (52,621 entries), merited only a brief mention in last week's QCA report which set out the changes. "Due to the potential age of A-level candidates and the possible nature of investigative activities in psychology, candidates will not be expected to demonstrate the skills of investigation through internal assessment," the report said.

A separate QCA report, on responses to the consultation, offered no analysis of teachers' opinions because the number who responded (68 teachers) was too low to be reported in detail.

However, Isla Dowds, head of psychology at Helenswood school, Hastings, has written to the authority to complain, claiming officials had done virtually nothing to make teachers aware of the consultation. She said the decision to axe psychology coursework was at odds with what universities said they wanted and would undermine the qualification.

A QCA spokesman said: "The test for all A-level subjects was whether internal assessment was the best way of assessing knowledge in these subjects.

"If it was not, it probably should not be there. Students can still do experimental studies as part of their two-year course of learning. But we do not necessarily want to measure it in the same way."

conference report, P15

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