In England, following a series of reports and consultations such as the Tomlinson Report, the 14-19 White Paper and the Leitch Review, the Government is transforming learning and assessment for 14-19 year olds. As a result, the changes taking place in the education system today are among the biggest reforms for decades.
As a leading world authority on assessment, Cambridge Assessment helps to provide clarity on assessment through explanation, information and education. Clara Kenyon, Qualifications Director at OCR. (our UK exam board), recently described some of the key developments including modular GCSEs, Diplomas, A-stars and Functional Skills, at a seminar hosted by the Cambridge Assessment Network.
The aim of the reform is to ensure that every young person has a high-quality, useful and interesting curriculum that will help them achieve their potential, and progress to further and higher education and skilled employment. However, teachers and students are now having to handle a large amount of change over a relatively short period of time – in fact, research by OCR showed that the primary concern for 85 per cent of teachers is understanding and keeping abreast of the changes.
Clara Kenyon said: “OCR is working closely with heads of department and exams officers to prepare them for the changes and offer continued support throughout the transition.”
At the seminar, Clara explained how:
GCSEs have been updated so that content is more relevant and engaging to learners. Flexible assessment will give teachers an opportunity to choose the best learning approach for the student, and controlled assessment will replace coursework.
A Levels are being reduced from 6 to 4 units, and coursework will only remain in practical or expressive subjects. A Levels will include 'Stretch and Challenge', intended to allow all young people to maximise their potential – and Synoptic Assessment (which explores connections between different levels and areas of a subject) has been reviewed.
The Diploma, a new qualification that combines theoretical study with practical experience, is part of the 14-19 reform programme. Diplomas will cover 17 subjects, or lines of learning, and will be available in areas across the country by 2011.
Functional skills – such as communication, team working, presentation, and problem solving – are being incorporated into the secondary curriculum.
The UK’s Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) aims that by 2020, 90% of young people will achieve Level 2 (5 A* to C GCSEs equivalent) by the age of 19, and 70% will achieve level 3 qualifications by that age.