25/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 02:38

Geography GCSE changes 'rushed'

Category: Headlines

Published: 21st Jul 2012 01:10:20

Exam boards have been accused of making major last-minute changes to geography GCSE syllabuses which could jeopardise pupils' learning.

Some schools only received new course details on Wednesday, days before the end of the school year, prompting complaints of an unrealistic timeframe.

Exam boards were ordered to tighten up geography GCSE by September because of concerns about standards.

A spokesman for the exams watchdog Ofqual admitted timing was tight.

Graham West, head of humanities at Wheatley Park School in Oxfordshire, told BBC News that the exam board Edexcel only notified him of the new syllabus on Wednesday morning, prompting him to write to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In the letter, Mr West said: "The changes which are being put in place are by no means minor, they will require an increase in the content of the GCSE of around 50%, as well as other changes being made to current modules.

"I am not against changes being made to the GCSE specification; my objection is the unrealistic timeframe.

Giving teachers the details of exam changes on what is, for most, the last week of term would be laughable if it wasn't so serious”

"If the government and Ofqual think that this is going to bring improvements in education they are at best naive and at worst playing political games with our young people and their future."

Mr West told the BBC the changes meant a huge amount of work to revise 200 hours of lesson plans.

"I knew the syllabus was changing, but I couldn't do anything about it until I heard how it would change and to what extent.

"With more notice I would have held subject meetings and worked out the new course in a considered way with colleagues but they have left us no space to collaborate or discuss."

The move to toughen up exams came after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph uncovered evidence of exam boards giving secret advice to teachers on how to achieve better grades for their pupils.

An undercover reporter filmed a senior Edexcel examiner claiming the company's GCSE geography tests were not as difficult as those from other exam boards.

In a statement Ofqual said: "Exam boards have been developing new versions of the qualifications and submitting them to us for accreditation.

"Those that meet our requirements are available to teachers, but we will not accredit any qualifications that do not meet the standards we require.

"We know that time is now tight for first teaching in September, but we could not allow the previous versions to continue and the new versions must pass muster."

Ofqual said more geography GCSE syllabuses from other exam boards had yet to be accredited.

Professor David Lambert of the Geographical Association said that imposing the changes in a rush had generated "rising levels of concern in the teaching profession."

Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders said: "Giving teachers the details of exam changes on what is, for most, the last week of term would be laughable if it wasn't so serious."

A spokeswoman for Edexcel said: "We recognise the challenges that late access to specifications pose for teachers, and we have made changes as quickly as we could without compromising the quality of the specification. Ofqual accredited the first of our new qualifications last week."

The OCR and AQA exam boards, which still await accreditation for some of their new courses, said they would keep teachers fully updated on the progress of the changes.

New courses for maths GCSE are due by November and for history and English literature by September 2013.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Geography GCSE changes 'rushed' [Online] (Updated 21st Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1441844/Geography-GCSE-changes-rushed [Accessed 25th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Two-thirds of MPs are 'local' people, study suggests

    Almost two-thirds of the UK's members of Parliament are "local" to the area they represent, research by a political think tank suggests.
  • Johann Lamont: From the heat of the classroom to the heart of Scottish politics

    This year is an important one for the Lamont household.
  • Tech giants settle no-poaching lawsuit

    Four of the biggest technology firms - Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe - have settled a class action lawsuit alleging they conspired to hold down salaries.
  • European election candidates in Northern Ireland revealed

    Ten candidates will be vying for three European parliament seats in Northern Ireland, it has been confirmed.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Teenager cut free from child's swing at Rhyl park

    A 15 year-old girl has been cut free after becoming trapped in a children's swing in a park in Denbighshire.