Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Joint Council for General Qualifications
1. What evidence do the exam boards have to
support the statement "that the current range of specifications
meets the needs and aspirations of centres"?
All Awarding Bodies consult widely with centres
about their proposed specifications and take careful note of the
comments which are received in a variety of ways. For example,
there can be consultation by questionnaire, through meetings of
teachers and through Subject Committees comprising practising
teachers. Every effort is, therefore, made to meet centres' needs
although it has to be recognised that both the subject content
and the assessment pattern in specifications are constrained by
national criteria. For example, there are limits on coursework
By encouraging and where possible acting on
the feedback received, Awarding Bodies believe that they are,
for the most part, meeting the needs of centres. Recent feedback
suggests that the introduction of specifications in GCSE Applied
Science (Double Award) have been seen by many centres as fulfilling
However, Awarding Bodies are also aware that:
at all levels there is a need to
include more up-to-date ideas, particularly those which impact
on the everyday lives of students;
the practical applications of science
should be highlighted more strongly;
science is distinguished from other
areas of study by the inclusion of practical, hands-on experimental
work; those developing the curriculum sometimes forget that it
is often this work which inspires students to continue to study
for students towards the lower end
of the ability range, or who are experiencing demotivation, the
current Single Award GCSE course which many take does not provide
stimulation as it is very "academic" with little practical
2. In working "closely and co-operatively
with QCA" do the exam boards consider it their role to initiate
change or simply to implement it? Please give examples.
When developing qualifications and subject criteria,
QCA consults with a range of organisations and individuals with
expertise in the relevant fields. These would include, for example,
subject associations, higher education and representatives from
business and industry as well as Awarding Bodies. Thus, the Awarding
Bodies have an input at this stage. There are opportunities for
Awarding Bodies to have formal and informal contacts with QCA
to suggest any changes that they think are desirable but the subject
criteria are then determined by the Regulatory Authorities. It
will be seen that Awarding Bodies both initiate change, suggest
refinements to proposals and implement the changes instigated
by QCA. Scrutiny reports from QCA have indicated areas for improvement
which are then addressed by individual Awarding Bodies within
the timetable required by QCA. Each Awarding Body is continually
looking to develop new specifications and to support centres using
current specifications in new ways. For example, Awarding Bodies
are, individually and collectively, pursuing the following initiatives:
working with QCA and the University
of York Science Education Group to develop a new version of the
National Curriculum in Science, to be piloted from September 2003;
working with the University of York
and the Nuffield Foundation to deliver an AS specification in
Science for Public Understanding. This specification, with its
clear emphasis on ideas about the nature of Science and the applicability
of those ideas in the wider context has attracted both those students
with an arts background and also those studying Science beyond
the age of 16;
developing a pilot Single Award GCSE
Science specification to meet the need identified in the response
to Question 1 above;
developing the use of websites and
other ICT solutions to support teachers and students.
3. How do the exam boards ensure that the
items produced for assessment match the intentions and aims of
the science curriculum? In particular, are the exam boards content
with the assessment arrangements for GCSE Sc1 investigations?
If not, what are the issues and how could these be resolved?
The intentions and aims of the science curriculum
were considered when writing specifications, and the assessment
objectives are mapped closely to the papers produced. Practical
assessments follow set criteria or their equivalent. Awarding
Bodies do have some concerns with the assessment of Sc1 coursework,
and there is evidence that a relatively small number of different
investigations is actually used by centres. Some GCSE science
specifications, together with the two pilot developments mentioned
in the response to Question 2 above, have assessment models which
are less mechanistic and which should differentiate more effectively.
A wider range of investigative skills is assessed, an indication
of the Awarding Bodies' commitment to continual improvement of
the assessment process.
4. What evidence do you have for the reliability
and validity of your examinations in science?
The Awarding Bodies believe that all examinations
on general qualifications (GCSE, GCE and VCE) have a high level
of reliability. This belief is supported by the statistical information
obtained from the outcomes of awards. It is believed that the
assessments of the AS examinations are valid because the actual
outcomes have so far reflected those expected. All Awarding Bodies
follow the requirements of the Code of Practice fully and carefully
and its application is monitored by the Regulatory Authorities.
5. What fraction of exam boards' budgets is
spent on research and development? What issues are you researching
All Awarding Bodies have Research Departments
and staff with dedicated responsibilities for research across
the whole range of the work of each Awarding Body. Issues relating
to the establishment and development of Curriculum 2000 are of
particular importance currently. The JCGQ has established a Research
Committee which reports directly to its Management Committee and
which establishes annual priorities for inter-Awarding Body research
and undertakes a regular programme of comparability studies. Much
of the work undertaken is cross-curricular.
6. Are the exam boards involved proactively
with the development of new methods of assessment? If so, where
are the priorities at the moment and how are these being taken
forward? If not, where does this responsibility lie and how do
the exam boards take this into account when developing assessment
Awarding Bodies are involved proactively with
the development of new methods of assessment and the application
of ICT solutions to the assessment process. In developing new
specifications, all Awarding Bodies will actively consider whether
new measures of assessment are suitable and will measure the achievements
of students in a valid and more reliable fashion, ensuring that
they are fit for purpose.
7. What views do you have on the role of teacher
assessment in external examinations? Would you be happy to see
a substantial increase?
The Awarding Bodies have considerable experience
of developing and operating specifications and syllabuses with
various weightings of internal assessment. The proportion of marks
allowed for internal assessment has been reduced in recent years.
Were a general increase to be allowed, it would be important to
ensure that robust, manageable and economic moderation arrangements
were in place.
Teacher assessment is necessary when it is felt
that there is a need to assess attributes that cannot be measured
by means of an externally marked examination.
Experience shows that teacher assessment is
generally reliable and accurate.
Any consideration of an increase ought to be
considered in the broader context of the work currently being
undertaken by the DfES and the Cabinet Office to examine bureaucratic
burdens on teachers, the findings of which are likely to be known
later in the year.
8. How do the exam boards support curriculum
development and the introduction of new specifications in science?
Please give examples.
Awarding Bodies will each work in different
partnerships with curriculum groupings. For example, AQA has worked
closely with the Nuffield Foundation on the development of Science
for Public Understanding. OCR works closely with curriculum development
agencies, such as the Nuffield Foundation, the University of York
Science Education Group and the Institute of Physics in the development
of new specifications.
Awarding Bodies support the introduction of
new specifications by comprehensive programmes of nationwide meetings
with centre representatives and the production of support materials
appropriate to the subject and level of qualification.
9. Are there any particular challenges in
developing specifications and methods of assessment for vocational
Clearly there are many careers which rely on
or have links with science. There are a number of challenges in
developing specifications and methods of assessment for vocational
qualifications, including the following:
the appropriate degree of specialisation
within the vocational context;
the need to ensure parity of demand
across a large range of options;
the need to assess the evidence produced
by students in ways which are robust, valid and yet manageable;
the need to design a qualification
which is appropriate both for students who wish to go immediately
into employment and for those who wish to proceed to higher education.