GCSE science exams fail regulator’s test

LONDON, (Reuters) – GCSE science exams taken by  more than 500,000 children aged 15 and 16 last summer failed to  stretch able pupils and contained too many multiple choice  questions, the government’s exams watchdog said yesterday.

Ofqual said a review of the specifications for the science,  additional science and physics exams raised “significant causes  for concern”.
The findings were seized on by critics who argue GCSEs have  been “dumbed down” and no longer challenge the ablest pupils.

The regulator ordered exam boards immediately to improve the  quality of questions and the rigour of marking in time for this  summer’s tests.
And it said the entire science specification should be  rewritten in time for exams in summer 2013.

“Our monitoring shows that the revisions to the GCSE science  criteria in 2005 have led to a fall in the quality of science  assessments,” said Ofqual Chairman Kathleen Tattersall.

“Science is a vitally important subject and it is essential  that these new criteria and specifications should engage and  challenge all learners, particularly the most able.”

Many private schools have switched to teaching International  GCSEs, designed for overseas pupils and which offer a more  traditional syllabus and test.
“Even those accustomed to reading between the lines and  de-coding quango-speak will be shocked by these findings,” said  Geoff Lucas, secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’  Confer-ence, which represents 250 independent schools.

“Any one asking why so many independent schools are  switching to the IGCSE, particularly in science, only needs to  read this latest Ofqual report.”

Earlier this month Children’s Secretary Ed Balls criticised  independent schools for claiming IGCSEs were the only way to  stretch the brightest pupils.
“The idea that you have to look at private schools teaching  the IGCSE if you want to see pupils being really stretched isn’t  just out of touch with the reality of our education system, but  it also undermines the brilliant work being done by many of our  best school leaders,” Balls told a teaching conference.

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