Commons Select Committee on Education: Introduce National Syllabuses

Commons Select Committee on Education published 1st Report – The administration of examinations for 15-19 year olds in England [pdf: Volume I, Volume 2, Volume 3].

From the statement by the Chair of the Committee, Graham Stuart MP:

The public have lost confidence in exam standards and this needs to be put right. We’ve got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how ‘accessible’ their syllabuses are.

You could move to a single national exam board which would stop the ‘race to the bottom’ but the change would be disruptive and threaten innovation and cost control. Alternatively there are benefits to having one exam board per subject but such “franchising” would create its own difficulties over pricing, tendering and the concentration of expertise.

We believe the best reform would be the creation of National Syllabuses. There could be a competition, such as the Secretary of State has already suggested, to decide which exam board would design the syllabus for a particular subject which would then be accredited by the regulator, Ofqual. After that any board could set an exam for that syllabus and compete on innovation, efficiency, service and support. Ofqual would ensure that exam boards didn’t compete by making papers easier and could readily identify problems and make statistical adjustments if necessary.


Michael Gove: Mathematics for every 16 to 18 year old

In today’s Written Ministerial Statement Reforming Young People’s Education [if the file at the Parliament’s webpage is still corrupted, try  this one]  the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove MP) said, among other things:

[E]every 16 to 19 year old will have the opportunity to undertake high quality study which will help students move on to skilled work or further or higher education. Young people will be able to take up valuable work experience opportunities. Students without a good pass at 16 in English and maths – the subjects most valued by employers – will have to continue to study those subjects to age 18. We will publish data for each institution showing whether students progressed into work and further or higher education.

Petition: Turing for Tenner

A petition to put Alan Turing on  £10 note; the epetitions page.

“Alan Turing is a national hero. His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable.” The ripple-effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop. The current Bank of England £10 notes are Series E, but Series F notes are already in circulation for some denominations. We therefore call upon the Treasury to request the Bank of England to consider depicting Alan Turing when Series F £10 banknotes are designed.”

A related post: Alan Turing and the bullying of Britain’s geeks.

Exam standards fall in “race to the bottom”, MPs will say

From The Telegraph:

MPs will this week call for radical changes to the public examinations system to halt a decline in standards.

A report by the all-party Education Select Committee will say that the quality of GCSEs and A-levels has been compromised by a structure which allows competition between exam boards. […]

It is expected to call for the current system of multiple exam syllabuses jostling for business to be scrapped and replaced with one national syllabus for key GCSE subjects. […]

Competition would be removed in key subjects such as maths, English and science and possibly history, geography and modern foreign languages, the other subjects that make up the EBacc. […]

The report is also expected to recommend that exam boards ban the use of their logos and the reproduction of examination material in text books produced by commercial publishers marketed to specific qualifications.

Read full article.