Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofqual Seeks to Ensure All Things Are Equal in Maths

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofqual Seeks to Ensure All Things Are Equal in Maths

Article excerpt

It asks schools to test new GCSEs amid fears over 'easy' paper

Ofqual is asking schools to put their pupils through a series of extra mock exams as it seeks to quell the controversy over standards in new maths GCSEs.

The qualifications regulator has been under huge pressure since a row blew up over allegations that some papers it has accredited are too easy. The Edexcel and OCR exam boards have complained that AQA's specimen maths paper is not challenging enough and ministers have let it be known they are "absolutely furious" that Ofqual has not done more to prevent what they fear could become a "race to the bottom".

Now TES has learned that Ofqual is turning to schools for a solution. It has written asking if they would be prepared to take part in "research into the reformed GCSE mathematics qualifications, looking specifically at the difficulty and demand of the new assessments".

The watchdog wants schools to submit Year 11 pupils for sample 90-minute tests from each of the three big exam boards.

But Sue Pope, who chairs the general council of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, described the way the watchdog had handled the accreditation of new maths GCSEs as "shocking".

"I think what they want is to be able to say, 'Oh look, teachers have predicted these kind of grades and, look, they got them on all three exams'," she said. "But actually what we know is they are likely to get very different performance from the different exams because of the way they have been designed."

Ofqual has given schools until today to say if they want to participate in the study. It will involve pupils taking the tests in "normal lesson time" but under exam conditions.

The watchdog said schools would benefit from having the tests marked and would receive feedback on pupils' performance. But it acknowledged that because "the examinations relate to the reformed GCSE maths qualification, there will be some content that pupils are not likely to be fully prepared for". …

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