“The challenges posed by new English and maths GCSEs are enormous but OCR is in a strong position to implement them successfully,” Paul Dodd, OCR’s Head of GCSE and A Level reform, informed delegates at yesterday’s Westminster Education Forum on the future for GCSEs.
Concentrating on English and maths, in line with government priorities, Paul acknowledged that major changes in English and maths at GCSE were needed to enable young people to compete in the 21st century skills market.
“Make no mistake, these reformed GCSEs in maths and English, to be taught from September 2015, are hugely challenging for all those involved. They will be larger than all other GCSEs, requiring significant extra teaching time – 20% is an estimate in maths.” As a former teacher himself, Paul admitted the ‘quantum leap’ that teachers face. “Pass rates could plummet in 2017 given the changes to assessment and the size of the new GCSEs,” he added.
In maths, there will be less memorizing and more unpredictability, with a greater emphasis on higher level mathematical thinking. An estimated 25% will be centred on problem solving. Paul queried where all the extra maths teachers will come from to deliver the teaching and where the threshold will be set in the new 9 to 1 grading scale.
OCR fought for and secured a retention of digital texts in English language. Although OCR supports a clearer separation between English language and literature, GCSE English literature looks particularly challenging. No longer compulsory, English literature will emphasise literary heritage texts and poetry. With the removal of tiering, as well as the introduction of a separate endorsed certificate for speaking and listening for English language, English teachers will need support to revise their approach.
In order to rise to the challenge of building and delivering exciting new qualifications, OCR is working in partnership with experts across the education community. “We have taken teacher, stakeholder and HE views on board in our numerous forums and focus groups,” Paul told the Forum at the Glaziers Hall in London. “Our research division in Cambridge has supported us in our development work and being part of Cambridge Assessment with our sister organisations CIE and Cambridge English has given us an unrivalled access into high performing jurisdictions and international benchmarking.”
OCR will be there to provide support to teachers, whether through quality resources, or with more subject specialists. In both English and maths, OCR is working with a range of expert partners to ensure the necessary resources are in place for teachers and students to ensure lively and interesting GCSEs. Paul continued: “We are committed to developing a wider range of high quality resources. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which we already created for our own Computing GCSE, look set to revolutionise this area.”
“We will make sure our GCSEs incorporate the ‘three R’s' - relevance, resilience and reliability – for the times ahead,” Paul added. “To seize this once in a generation opportunity will require collaboration, planning and a shared commitment by all those involved.”
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