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ASE members talk to Ofqual on GCSE and A level reform

4 July 2014

Member update: A focus on assessment of practical work

Members of ASE’s 11-19 Committee and representatives from other ASE Committees, including teachers, researchers and professional development experts, welcomed the invitation from Janet Holloway, Ofqual’s Head of Reform, to discuss GCSE and A level reform at ASE’s headquarters on 21 June.

Janet provided some useful background and explanations of the reform process to date and ASE members were pleased to note the value placed on practical work in science by Ofqual.  However at the moment there is no clearly tested model which will ensure that the expected broad range of practical work will take place and be adequately assessed in science GCSEs and A levels.

Whilst appreciating the rationale behind the reforms, ASE members raised concerns (for A levels where the reform is more advanced) that there appears to be an emphasis on technical and manipulative skills rather than the wider enquiry and investigative skills, and that opportunities for valuable extended investigations are limited. Additionally ASE members commented that assessment of practical work in written papers may not effectively test a broad range of skills.  The separate reporting of the practical work assessment from the A level grade may have a negative impact on the amount and quality of practical work that young people experience during their science A level courses.

ASE members welcomed the opportunity presented by Janet Holloway to further engage with the reform process through supporting the awarding organisations in identifying alternative ways of assessing practical work and supporting the development of high quality assessment items. ASE will also be providing further opportunities for members to engage with Ofqual directly in these discussions, particularly on GCSE reform which is at an earlier stage of development.

For further information view ASE’s statement on the position of practical work in the secondary science curriculum