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Exam board returns to coursework for IGCSE

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 24 June, 2011 | By: William Stewart

Its replacement with controlled assessment had been branded 'insanity'

An exam board is responding to teachers' unhappiness over controlled assessment with new IGCSEs that offer them a return to traditional coursework.

AQA is allowing 40 per cent of its qualifications in English language and literature to be made up of the old-style coursework no longer permitted for GCSEs.

The board is marketing the IGCSEs to teachers who feel the controlled assessment introduced to English GCSEs this academic year is too restrictive.

One teacher considering the switch has described the controlled assessment method - which allows pupils to prepare in advance for a piece of work they write in the classroom under controlled conditions - as "insanity" on the TES website.

AQA chief executive Andrew Hall said: "We are aware that some teachers are finding that controlled assessment is taking away from their teaching time.

"We've designed qualifications that offer them the choice of what is best for them and their students. It's about flexibility. Where controlled assessment is right for some, for others it can cause problems."

The board's website promotes the IGCSEs as providing a "coursework option without the restrictions of controlled assessment" and having "no controlled assessment, which gives you more time for teaching".

The qualifications have been approved by exams watchdog Ofqual, but AQA is still waiting for the result of its application to the Government to have them counted in the English Baccalaureate and league tables in general.

Ian McNeilly, director of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE), said he expects the qualifications to be popular if they become eligible for league tables.

"The coursework aspect frees up time for more creativity and independence than the controlled assessment would and should provide the learner with a more enjoyable experience of English," he said.

Cambridge Assessment also offers IGCSEs that allow traditional coursework options. In the board's English language qualification, coursework can be worth up to half the marks.

The replacement of coursework with controlled assessment in GCSEs was proposed as a way of raising public confidence in a qualification dogged by concerns that coursework encouraged plagiarism and cheating.

Some schools had been criticised for supplying coursework essay plans, lists of key phrases to include, and giving pupils excessive assistance with redrafting. One teacher admitted drafts would bounce back to pupils until their work achieved the predicted grade.

But many teachers fiercely opposed abolishing coursework as it gave pupils uncomfortable with traditional exams opportunities to do themselves justice.

Bethan Marshall, senior lecturer in English education at King's College London, has argued that the abolition "fundamentally" changed English teaching and means pupils no longer learn essential drafting skills. She would "dearly love" to see coursework returned to English GCSEs.

AQA says pupils should not redraft coursework after a teacher has marked it or highlighted corrections, but has not put any limit on the number of drafts in its IGCSEs.

A spokesperson said: "The matter of redrafting is ultimately left to the professional judgment of teachers, though we are confident that our robust moderation would pick up instances where teachers have had too much input into coursework."

ABOUT THE IGCSE

History lesson

- IGCSEs were first developed by Cambridge International Examinations in 1988 as an international version of GCSEs.

- As the domestic GCSE evolved, the IGCSE came to be seen as a more traditional version and was adopted by hundreds of independent schools.

- In February 2010, Labour ministers finally gave into lobbying and agreed to fund IGCSEs in state schools in nine subjects.

- Three months later, the Coalition said it would extend this to all subjects.

- Edexcel, AQA and Welsh exam board WJEC now offer their own versions.

- They are technically known as "certificates" for the domestic market to avoid confusion with GCSEs, but the IGCSE tag has stuck.


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