Major new GCSE reforms in England and Wales are being evaluated by experts at The University of Nottingham.
The team — including researchers from the Centre for Developing and Evaluating Lifelong Learning (CDELL) and the School of Education — are evaluating new GCSE pilot courses in English, Welsh, Mathematics, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), for the Department of Children, Education and Lifelong Learning Skills (DCELLS) in Wales.
Despite record GCSE results in Wales, employers are calling for young people to have improved basic literacy, numeracy and ICT skills — the ‘basics’. In addition, although GCSE results generally are at record levels, about 40 per cent of pupils in Wales failed to achieve Grade C in English and 46 per cent achieved less than a Grade C for Mathematics last year.
Moreover, the Welsh Assembly Government wishes to help schools place increased emphasis on the ‘basics’ in the teaching and assessment of these subjects. DCELLS is thus reviewing GCSEs in these subjects with the aim of ensuring that the GCSEs better equip pupils for life and work after school, as well as supporting progression in the subject.
Leading the evaluation of this initiative are Professors Roger Murphy and David Greatbatch from CDELL at the University. Their research team will evaluate the effectiveness of the changes in each subject. By analysis and reporting on the evidence it has gathered, CDELL will make recommendations to support DCELLS in making final decisions and, if needed, refinements to the new courses from September 2010.
The evaluation involves detailed research around the country with investigators visiting schools to see the impact of the new qualifications on pupils and teachers. It also involves large scale surveys and group interviews.
“We are looking at the manageability of these courses and the potential impact of the new qualifications,” said Professor Murphy. “Not simply the effect on the pupils but on all stakeholders; teachers, parents and employers. We will be looking at whether any further refinements are required if these pilots are to be rolled out nationally.
“It is good to see authorities taking these comments on board and moving ahead with them. They’re piloting some imaginative ideas which are designed to enhance the education experience as well as satisfy the needs of employers and the pupils themselves.”
The pilots are being managed by the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC). Arthur Parker, Assistant Director at WJEC, said: “The aim is to strengthen existing GCSEs so that basic skills are delivered. At the same time coursework counting towards the final marks is being cut and reformed to tackle the risk of plagiarism and ‘assistance’ from relatives”.
Professor Murphy and his team will spend a year on the Welsh project and are currently a year into a three year, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) funded evaluation of Mathematics GCSE pilots in England. This research is being carried out in conjunction with academic colleagues in Sussex and Manchester, led by Professor Murphy and Dr Andrew Noyes in Nottingham.
Professor Murphy said: “The evaluation will provide evidence as to how effective the new approaches to assessing Mathematics are and inform the development of GCSE mathematics for 2010. It is vastly encouraging to see the authorities investing in this kind of evaluation.”
New GCSEs in the subjects being evaluated will be introduced for first teaching in September 2010 in both Wales and England.
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Notes to Editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THES) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.
Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.