Students and teachers in England slam ‘virtually useless’ exam outlines | Examinations

Teachers and pupils in England have complained about inconsistencies in the advance information made available to help focus their revision ahead of summer GCSEs and A levels, in some cases describing it as “virtually useless”.

Headteachers said information released by exam boards last week on which subjects students will be tested on in 300 GCSE, AS and A-level specifications was extremely varied, with modern foreign languages ​​being one source of particular concern.

MFL teachers spoke out on social networks and wrote to review boards expressing disappointment with advance information for MFL writing materials.

A teacher wrote to the AQA exam committee: “What’s going on? This information is practically useless, it reads like the textbook’s table of contents – that is, virtually all topics are included for Spanish and most for French. For some reason, however, German had more material removed.

“Could you explain exactly how I’m supposed to present this to students who are already stressed out by the whole exam process, having missed important parts of their schooling?”

Others raised concerns about discrepancies in advance information provided by different review boards for A-level economics. One student wrote on the Student room that the AQA listed almost all of the specs, while the OCR provided a concise list of topics, saying, “That’s just unfair.”

Advance notice is one of many measures put in place this year to try to ensure fairness in exams, which return after being canceled for two years. Other adaptations include a choice of subjects in some GCSEs, such as English Literature and History, and exam support material, including maths formula sheets.

Pupils have been told examiners would be more generous when setting level limits to provide a safety net, but parents and teachers say the measures cannot fairly compensate for widely varying experiences of learning loss during the pandemic.

A survey of 2,900 teachers by Teacher tapping found widespread dissatisfaction with information provided in advance. When it comes to GCSE languages, almost three-quarters of those who took the survey were dissatisfied – 55% ‘very dissatisfied’ and 19% ‘dissatisfied’.

More than two in five GCSE English teachers (43%) were dissatisfied, compared to one in five who were satisfied. GCSE maths teachers were the most enthusiastic, with 47% satisfied with the information provided in advance about their subject, while two in five science teachers expressed satisfaction.

A headmaster in Greater Manchester said some of his subject leaders had said advance information was useful, but others were concerned about the impact of exams on the most disadvantaged children, the large volume of knowledge still to be covered and inconsistencies in the level of adjustments depending on the subject.

He said: “Several subject managers wondered why, after so much time and so much accumulation, the adjustments are so insignificant.”

There were also fears that the adjustments would aggravate the injustice. “The changes may well benefit the most advantaged more by reducing content and targeting review more, but may also disadvantage those most affected by the pandemic because the changes do not go far enough,” the director said.

A call from the Guardian prompted responses from parents and pupils who also worried about the fairness of this year’s exams. “Exams need to be canceled and we need to trust teachers to give teacher-assessed grades because they know their students best,” said one A-level student. education and there are many discrepancies between subjects and exam boards, so canceling A levels is the only fair alternative.”

Steve Chalke, the founder of the Oasis Academy Trust, said his staff were still working out the details of the advance information. “There is a lot to digest. Some said ‘there’s a lot here’, others said ‘there’s not much to my subject’.

He also expressed concern about the mental health of students, with some struggling to get out of bed due to anxiety. “The level of nervousness is huge, among staff, parents and students.”

A French and Spanish teacher at a comprehensive school in the South West of England said her GCSE pupils were ‘stunned’ to find that only one out of 12 subjects had been dropped in the Spanish GCSE, while German students were told they would be tested on about half the normal list of subjects.

She and other MFL teachers were also disappointed to see the subject of French vacations – usually very popular with students – dropped. “They work hard but they are stressed. Some of them are working too hard, some of them are closing,” she said. “Some of them I haven’t seen since Christmas.”

A spokesperson for Ofqual said: ‘The advance information has been written to help students prepare for this year’s examination papers. Exam papers will not look the same for all subjects and therefore the prerequisite information does not have to be the same for all subjects.

“As every year, the exam boards will set grade limits in a way that ensures students are treated fairly regardless of which exam board they entered with. Ofqual, as the exam regulator, will oversee This way, students don’t have to worry that advanced information on one topic looks different than on another.

“Examination boards worked to a common set of principles to develop their advance information. It was released on February 7 because its purpose is to support student review, not to restrict teaching.

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