[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Move to end more GCSE coursework
student working at home
Far less work will be done at home in future
GCSE coursework has become "less valid" and should be scrapped in several subjects, the exams watchdog has said.

A Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) report says coursework "does not fulfil its stated purpose" in an age of league tables and targets.

Amid concerns about cheating, it was announced last week that maths coursework will be scrapped next year.

It should also end in subjects such as English literature and the humanities, or be more controlled, the QCA says.

If it is retained, it will be done under supervised conditions and be set and/or marked by the exam boards - not teachers.

We have a responsibility to ensure that assessments in high stakes external examinations, such as GCSEs, continue to be valid and reliable
Ken Boston, QCA
In areas which most obviously require practical assessments - art, design and technology, home economics, music and PE - it will continue but with "stronger safeguards".

Most changes will affect courses starting in 2009, following consultation.

Science has been left out because GCSE courses changed only last month. They involve 25% coursework, much of it already classroom-based.

Decisions on English language and ICT will follow changes to incorporate "functional skills".

The lead has been taken by the English regulator, but working closely with its counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland. The changes will apply across the board.


Maths was singled out because of the "striking" responses to a survey of teachers.

The changes are designed to address the concerns that have been raised about ensuring that the work assessed really is the pupils' own
Jane Davidson
Welsh Education Minister

"In contrast with all other subjects, a substantial majority of mathematics teachers (66%) disagreed with the proposition that coursework was valid and reliable," the QCA said.

They also had the highest levels of concern about different aspects of coursework, "such as authenticating candidates' work".

In other subjects the responses were "fairly positive".

There were concerns about the workload faced by both students and staff, but most teachers "are not overwhelmingly worried about the use of the internet for coursework".

You've got rid of something before you know what is going to replace it
John Bangs
National Union of Teachers
Most teachers wanted some coursework retained.

But the QCA says things have changed since coursework began almost 20 years ago, with achievement and attainment tables, national or local targets based on exam grades and links between teachers' pay and students' results.

"The environment now is far more pressured and in these circumstances, it is likely that internal assessment of GCSE and A-levels as presently practised has become a less valid form of assessment."

It was seeking the most valid and reliable form of assessment for the intended learning outcomes.

But it also had to consider "manageability" - moving entirely to external exams would be far more costly and require the recruitment of many more examiners each year.


In spite of the report's contents, the QCA's chief executive, Ken Boston, said the current system of GCSE examinations and coursework was "robust".

"We are confident that the changes we are making to coursework will ensure that the GCSE remains fit for purpose, and ultimately reduces the assessment burden on both students and teachers," he said.

Coursework should be scrapped as it is anti-competitive
King of Reason, Weston

Education Secretary Alan Johnson received the QCA's report in June, and outlined the changes at the Labour Party conference last week.

He said: "Despite our rigorous system, more needs to be done to assure all parents that coursework assesses pupils' work in a fair and robust way."

But the National Union of Teachers accused the QCA of being "draconian".

Its head of education, John Bangs, had concerns about the proposed alternative, controlled assessment.

"We don't know what it looks like. So you've got rid of something before you know what is going to replace it."

The head of the NASUWT union, Chris Keates, was suspicious about the "sudden obsession" with cheating, coinciding with the greater use of the internet.

"Children from advantaged backgrounds have always had access to resources and opportunities to support coursework research denied to disadvantaged children," she said.

"Now access to a wide range of information is available to more children, concerns are raised about cheating."

More on the moves to scrap some coursework

Maths GCSE coursework is dropped
27 Sep 06 |  Education
A-level coursework change set out
22 Sep 06 |  Education
Student cheats contract out work
12 Jun 06 |  Education
Coursework plan to halt cheating
31 Jul 06 |  Education

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific