2015 it is! Ofqual gives qualified approval to new A levels and GCSEs in the same year

Plans for reforming A levels and GCSEs together in the same year have received approval from the regulator, Ofqual.

However this is qualified: “Exam boards agree with us that, on the face of it, this timetable is deliverable, but of course we will take action

if at any time the timetable is at risk”.

Responding formally to the education secretary’s plans, Ofqual chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, described the redevelopment of A-levels in England alongside GSCE reform by September 2015 as “challenging” for the both the  regulator and exam boards.

She then went on to suggest a potential heavy burden for schools as well: “The introduction of new GCSEs and A-levels at the same time will place a considerable burden on schools and the effect of this should be monitored.”

Altain’s observation is that there are significant other stakeholders for whom change is important and potentially challenging, that also benefit from consideration: For example students and  parents, on the one hand, and  HE, FE, Employers and Suppliers of resources such as Publishers on the other. How are the needs of these groups to be accounted for?

Also that there are perhaps fundamental questions still to be answered, ranging from what we really need secondary education to deliver, through to clarification on aspects of the the national curriculum, to the preferred approach to the accountability regime in schools.

We will be considering the implications more fully and sharing our perspective. Our sense is  that we need some fresh approaches in order to deliver, not just new exams, but the improvements promised for secondary education across the board.

In the meantime, 2015 is it is, but we should probably expect a few more twists and turns along the way.


You can read the full text of the Ofqual announcement here




2013 Predictions? Too early to call for Key Stage 4 and 5

This time of year it is traditional to attempt predications for the year ahead.

We take our hats off to the brave souls out there already making theirs’ for Education in 2013.

A particular focus for Altain Education, throughout 2012, has been the proposed changes for KS 4 and 5 qualifications, currently GCSES and A levels. We have contributed to the reviews and consultations and have been happy to share our perspective widely.

However 2012 finished on a “cliff hanger” on account of an open letter from Ofqual to the Secretary of State highlighting potential risks of the proposed changes, notably with respect to the proposal to develop the new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBC’s) for first teaching 2015 in parallel with market reform.

Hence we are keeping our powder dry pending a DfE response.

In the meantime we share some questions that occur to us with potential to guide our future contribution

Why are we changing? What will be the primary purpose of the new qualifications? How will the needs of students, HE and employers be accounted for? Are there key secondary aims and what are they?

How can the desired outcomes be best achieved? How will we ensure that teachers and learners not only know what to do, and feel equipped to do it, but are also appropriately motivated?

What should be considered as an equitable mix between exams and other elements, such as teacher development and support resources, that combine together to deliver qualifications?




“2015 Ready”: Why we shouldn’t just wait for the big changes proposed for exams to enjoy the big improvements needed for education

It’s coming up to a year since the Education Committee decided to launch an inquiry into examinations for 15 to 19 year olds.

Whilst exams were clearly the focus, a key theme also to emerge from the review was the importance of the relationship between exams and other resources.

In fact, the Education Committee report included no less than ten recommendations for an Ofqual “Healthy Markets” action plan, with a clear ambition to see traction on these aspects as soon as possible.

With regards to exams, we now have a high level view on what is intended. Greater HE involvement in A levels, replacement of GCSEs, and a new “Baccalaureate” style approach mooted for both Key Stage 4 and 5, as well as new arrangements for the administration of exams in the pipeline.

We will find out more feedback from the Ofqual A level consultation sometime in November.

However, what we already know is that dates for when these new exams will begin to have an impact in the classroom extends into 2014, 2015 or even 2018.

Which is why we eagerly await the “Healthy Markets” action plan, also due from Ofqual in November.

Exams are an essential part of education but they are not the only thing. In order to maximise the benefits of the changes in A levels from 2014,  and GCSE replacements by 2015, we should take action now.  It’s time to start to get “2015 ready”