OCR responds to DfE and Ofqual consultations on GCSE reform

04 September 2013

In its formal response to Ofqual’s consultation on GCSE reform, OCR – our UK exam board – argued for an end to coursework marks counting towards GCSE results. Proposals on overlapping tiers and a new grading system of 1 to 8 will not work either, according to OCR. 

Mark Dawe, OCR Chief Executive, said: “OCR is a keen supporter of practical learning but believes it is time to end the practice of coursework marks contributing to final results at GCSE. We recognise teachers’ concerns about how it is assessed. Teachers are required to use the system of controlled assessment which is cumbersome and disliked by many.

”Under OCR’s proposals, practical experiments in science, fieldwork in geography and creative activities in arts subjects among others would continue at GCSE and would be part of the subject syllabus. Knowledge gained through this kind of coursework would be assessed as part of the final exams, but the key change is that coursework would not contribute to a final grade. 

OCR’s views come out of findings in a new report commissioned by researchers at Cambridge Assessment. The report’s author Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, reviewed current coursework assessment methods and considered three new models before recommending the radical solution that OCR endorses.

OCR’s Chief Executive Mark Dawe continued: “The way coursework is marked gives teachers a tough dilemma. They are torn between needing to continually improve their exam results and yet also to be impartial assessors of their pupils' coursework. It’s time for a major re-think so that everyone can have confidence in the exam system.” 

On grading, OCR also argues for a ‘0 to 900’ scale as an alternative and more precise system for reporting results than the ‘1 – 8’ grades proposed. A scale of 1 to 8 risks inevitable comparisons between, say, a new grade of 4 and the old grade of D, when no direct ‘read across’ should be made between old and new grades. 

Where subjects will be tiered at GCSE, OCR favours adjacent tiering rather than the proposed overlapping tiers. This provides a tiering structure that will genuinely stretch the most able candidates – not ‘capping’ aspiration – but also provide a rewarding experience for the less able. 

OCR has also submitted a response to the DfE consultation on GCSE subject content.

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