A consultation on changes to KS4 examination. Our response advocates a common grading structure, external marking, fieldwork, and independently-run CPD for teachers.
Response submitted 2012
Agree. It is appropriate to signal a change from the existing GCSEs to the new qualifications.
Agree. The proposed change to English Baccalaureate Certificates provides clarity in relation to the new examination courses for the EBC subjects. It also creates a clearer definition of the family of core academic subjects within the English Baccalaureate.This should enhance public and employer understanding of the EBacc and the value and contribution of the different EBC subjects within it.
Not sure. In signalling a break with the current GCSEs there may be the case for a new grading structure. However, the Society would strongly argue for the retention of an A* (or similarly titled) grade so that the exceptional performance of the most able candidates can be fully recognised. In addition, the grading structure for EBC’s should clearly identify what grades constitute a pass (and higher) or a fail.
The Society would expect a successful EBC in geography to provide stretch and challenge to pupils and that those achieving a pass are able to demonstrate secure knowledge and understanding of a significant range of geographical locations, features and processes.
There should be a common grading structure for all EBCs to provide absolute consistency across the EBC subjects. It would be unhelpful for public and employer confidence if different structures were to be allowed within different EBC subjects.
Asking such audiences to make sense of different ‘types’ of grades awarded across different subjects will only lead to confusion. It should not be the job of a parent or employer to work out the differences between a ‘distinction or pass’ in one subject and the grades ‘A* or C’ in another.
Yes. The Society believes tiering is unhelpful and has the potential to limit pupils’ aspirations and achievement. EBC examinations should not be tiered, should cover the ability range and not ‘cap’ the potential of students.
Yes. With an ending to tiering new EBC examinations should also consider the following:
Use of multiple choice questions: within geography the Society believes that there is the opportunity for EBC examinations to include an appropriate percentage of multiple choice questions (no more than 15% of the overall examination assessment) to help assess a pupils’ understanding of the range of the content.
Extended writing: there should also be a degree of consistency of approach in demand across comparable subjects in relation to the balance of assessment and range of questions. For example, the Society is concerned about the relative lack of opportunities for more extended writing (short essay) answers in current geography GCSEs, especially when compared to history. In current history GCSEs it is not uncommon to see ‘10 mark’ essay questions. However, mark schemes for geography tend to be more limited at the 5-6 mark questions, with less common higher mark questions. We strongly support the inclusion of extended writing in geography.
The Society believes that all EBC subjects should be assessed through 100% externally marked examinations. This would provide parity of assessment and esteem across the EBC family of subjects.
It would be inappropriate to provide for internal assessment, such as controlled assessment, within one or more EBC subject and not the others. This situation would open up the potential for some subjects to be accused of undue ‘coaching or teaching to the test’, whilst others were fully externally assessed. Far better to have a consistent and transparent approach to all through 100% external assessment. In relation to internal assessment The Society would want to note the negative impact that Controlled Assessment has had on geography GCSE.
We particularly note feedback from geography teachers in high performing independent schools who have switched from GCSE to iGCSE; because the latter courses do not include Controlled Assessment. These teachers have cited the negative impact of Controlled Assessment as the specific reason for switching specification.
Geographical Fieldwork: While we support a move to 100% external assessment, the EBC for geography must include an unambiguous requirement for pupils to undertake geographical fieldwork as part of their studies. This fieldwork should provide pupils with a ‘real-world’ understanding of physical and human geography and the interaction between the two and should be examined.
The Society recognises that it is for schools to decide how best to run and deliver geographical fieldwork in terms of location, duration and focus. However, we do not believe that geographical fieldwork based on an allocation of ‘one day per year’ (which is common in many schools) is sufficient in achieving the ambition and rigour of the new EBC for geography.
The Society would not support a new EBC in geography which did not contain a specific and robust requirement for, and examination of, geographical fieldwork.
Opportunities to assess pupils’ learning through fieldwork (which previously had been assessed largely through controlled assessment) are discussed in 7 b) below.
In GCSE geography pupils’ geographical fieldwork is currently internally assessed through controlled assessment. The Society strongly supports the reintroduction of ‘course work’ for A Level geography. However, we do not believe it is necessary to retain internal assessment for an EBC in geography.
However, this raises the issue of how can an EBC assess the learning that pupils gain through geographical fieldwork. The Society proposes that this could be achieved through 100% external assessment in the following ways:
1. The introduction of a geographical fieldwork and skills examination.
This paper should include map work, data handling, interpretation of information presented through Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the application of techniques, insights and approaches that can only be learnt through geographical fieldwork
2. Providing added weighting for pupils’ answers that incorporate the use of case studies that pupils have encountered through their fieldwork.
This approach could be specifically highlighted in the introductions to relevant examination questions which would be set to assess a pupil’s understanding of physical, human and integrated geography.
A useful model here is the introduction of Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar which accounts for 5% of the current qualifications in geography and is tested within identified questions.
The Society would particularly welcome assessment which presents (and rewards) opportunities for pupils to demonstrate their learning through fieldwork within identified questions. We feel this suggestion would work particularly well if greater opportunities were provided for more extended writing within geography exams.
The expectation should be that an EBC takes the same amount of curriculum time as current GCSEs.
The Society is unequivocal in its support for the EBacc which identifies an academic core of subjects that should be studied to 16 and we agree with the current range and balance of subjects.
However, outside this academic core, there should also be appropriate opportunities for pupils to study other subject areas. The danger of increasing time dedicated to a either subset or to all EBCs is that this would have the potential to crowd out other subjects from the KS4 curriculum which would be undesirable in terms of breadth and range of study.
In addition, we note that a move to 100% external examination, and loss of Controlled Assessment, will ‘free up’ significant amounts of lesson time for the EBC which can and should be (re)dedicated to teaching.
Geography teachers have reported to the Society that Controlled Assessment has reduced their teaching time by at least 10 hours (and in extremis up to one half terms worth of lessons). The Society also notes that Ofqual has reported that 24% of geography teachers identified the loss of teaching time as the biggest problem with controlled assessment (Evaluation of the Introduction of Controlled Assessment, Ofqual 2011).
Examinations in geography should include the use of
Maps at different scales
Aerial and satellite imagery
A wide range of geographical data, including that presented through the use of GIS, and statistical summary data
The Society believes that by the end of KS4 pupils should be able to demonstrate high level locational knowledge and we do not believe it is necessary to provide pupils with an 'examination atlas’. However, examinations may require pupils to select, use and comment on information presented in extracts from atlases.
Yes. The Society can see no good reason to change the current range of EBacc subjects which provide a quality range of robust academic study up to the age of 16.
We are concerned however at school timetabling that often restricts pupils’ choice to studying either geography or history and not both. This is further encouraged by the EBacc requiring one or other (but not both) of these two complementary and different subjects.
The EBacc subjects present the necessary academic underpinning to a pupil’s further study at A Level. More specifically they provide coherent academic pathways which lead onto the preferred ‘facilitating subjects’ at A Level subjects which have been identified by the Russell Group of Universities and to a wide range of rigorous degree level and employment opportunities.
There is sufficient science currently required within the E-Bacc. We have no strong views as to how that is best organised but we would be very concerned if more curriculum time were to be given over to science when history and geography are limited to one ‘option’.
EBCs will need to be able to demonstrate high levels of coverage of key knowledge, understanding and skills within each respective subject, as well as a sound knowledge of certain areas in depth.
There should be sufficient and complementary levels of demand and stretch within the different subjects, which should in turn be comparable to the levels found in other international high performing jurisdictions.
It is important at this stage that young people can begin to undertake higher order skills to support their subject-based knowledge and understanding. These include effective research on their own; select and apply knowledge and understanding; analyse and interpret data; understand cause and consequence; and critically evaluate different information sources.
Agree. Alongside the specific EBCs in English and mathematics, opportunities should also be taken to strengthen the use of English and mathematics in other relevant EBC subjects.
In geography the Society would welcome both more extended writing and clearer specification and higher demands in relation to the use of mathematical and data analytical techniques, including data handling and mapping in GIS, descriptive statistics (inferential at A Level), and data interpretation.
The Society believes that a requirement should be placed on Awarding Organisations to engage in effective consultation and collaboration with an EBC subject’s Learned Society as these bodies have responsibility for the discipline and ready access to the breadth of subject expertise in universities. This would help ensure that an Awarding Organisation understands a subject within its full ‘disciplinary context’, has access to up to date subject knowledge, and is not solely reliant for subject feedback from teachers.
Awarding Organisations have not always engaged effectively with their learned societies and they have, at times, missed out on the expertise that could have been provided to them. Further, Awarding Organisations should provide resources to support this work, rather than (has often been the case) expecting such expertise to be provided pro-bono.
The Society believes there should be a clear separation between an Awarding Body and the development of text books, online resources and other materials teachers may use.
There is a significant potential for the curriculum to become narrowed, and an undue focus on ‘cherry picked’ case-studies, when texts or other materials are endorsed, branded or otherwise associated with an Awarding Body’s particular course. Further, the practice of examiners writing such materials (and being identified as such) should be prevented. Similarly, Awarding Bodies should encourage teachers to undertake subject-based CPD that is not simply limited to the examination specification. This will become even more important when only one Awarding Body offers any particular EBC specification.
The Society would not wish to see such activities continue within the development of the EBCs. We believe that the EBC franchise process should explicitly prevent:
The Society welcomes the removal of modular courses and controlled assessment for EBC. This will reduce a significant burden on schools in the administration of EBCs.
No comment made.
All six EBC subjects should be ready for first teaching from 2015. There is nothing to be gained by phasing the implementation of the new EBCs.
A phased programme will create comparability issues for pupils receiving new EBCs in English, mathematics and science and the old GCSE in MFL and geography or history. This would be a very unwelcome situation and it would be far better to implement all the EBC subjects in one phase.
The Society believes that subject content and criteria for geography could be developed in an expeditious way that would allow EBC geography to be implemented concurrently with English, mathematics and science.
The key is in teachers being well led and well prepared, and in the recognition by school leaders of the importance of subject-based CPD training. To achieve that:
The Society would recommend that the Awarding Bodies include proposals for how they might support the roll out of successful EBC with teachers and schools.
Resources and CPD will be essential in supporting teacher implementation, but these must show a plurality of approaches to the curriculum and not just one. However, the Society does not believe it is appropriate for Awarding Bodies to run CPD courses or develop online or printed support materials on ‘their’ EBCs. Instead the Society would be interested to see how Awarding Bodies and/or the DfE might develop partnerships with Learned Societies which in turn can provide support for teachers, and facilitate the engagement of teachers with relevant new knowledge emanating from the universities. Learned Societies bring a disciplinary subject rigour and whole subject framework to teachers. This helps to ensure that their subject knowledge is current and refreshed; that the teaching community is committed to broadening pupils’ learning not narrowing down onto selected case studies; and that learning is provided within a sound subject-based context.
The expertise, impartiality and independence of the Learned Societies should be used also to stimulate and provide clear subject leadership to the (necessary) development of teachers thinking their way into how they will teach KS4. We would wish to use the opportunity of the new EBCs to stimulate all teachers rather than see some take a route of least resistance through the new specifications.
Further training for teachers in leading and supporting fieldwork will be also essential in geography. (The RGS-IBG is currently seeking funding for a new project to meet that specific need.)
The Society would also wish to see schools prioritise the development of their KS4 curriculum within their school departmental plans as part of the lead up to implementation in 2015. This could be well supported with CPD and curriculum planning discussions, for example for geography, through the RGS-IBG local networks of teachers led by a Chartered Geographer teacher.
Up to 12 months. Latterly geography teachers have responded positively to the need to redevelop their courses to take account of new linear GCSEs, SPAG and the review of content in GCSE geography in the summer of 2012. In supporting teachers with these changes the Society has provided a range of successful, and well attended, CPD, online materials and other support.
With appropriate support, we believe that the geography community could respond to the new courses within a 12 month period. However if that support and professional development, provided independently from the Awarding Bodies, is either not available or not supported by school leaders then teachers will struggle regardless of the time frame.
Yes. We cannot have a mixed market of qualifications with different qualifications being offered by schools and post 16 institutions.
Agree. Five years is an appropriate period. A number of teachers have raised the issue of whether the iGCSEs/Certificates will continue to be available as courses and also if they would feature as ‘equivalents’ to the EBCs within the performance tables.
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