The new criteria for ASA-level GCE and for Religious Studies have occasioned fairly major restructuring in the specifications. The five syllabuses currently available from the English awarding bodies have been reduced to three; one each from AQA, Edexcel and OCR. In addition there are specifications available from WJEC and CCEA. Full details of these specifications are on the awarding bodies' websites: AQA: www.aqa.org.uk Edexcel: www.edexcel.org.uk OCR: www.ocr.org.uk WJEC: www.wjec.co.uk CCEA, Northern Ireland awarding body: www.ccea.org.uk Some of the boards have also put the specimen assessment material, resources lists, notes for guidance and student guides on their sites.
The trends of the past few years are clear in the new specifications, with each body offering a course in Religious Philosophy and Religious Ethics. In addition, OCR is offering a standalone AS which is either Religious Philosophy or Religious Ehics. The more traditional biblical papers and world faith papers are still available. Coursework, now all externally assessed, is available from Edexcel as a compulsory unit and from OCR as an option.
The most significant change is the compulsory synoptic assessment, where students are examined on their ability to demonstrate the relationship between the chosen area(s) of study and other specified aspects of human experience. It is here that differentiation is, perhaps, most likely to occur. The other major change is AS being assessed at the level of a 17-year-old. This will almost inevitably mean reduction in the depth at which the AS material is approached, but this should be rectified by the second year work and the synoptic assessment.
Many teachers will be sad to see their existing syllabuses disappear after 2001, but I believe there is much to be welcomed in this revision.
Jon Mayled is examinations officer for the Professional Council for RE