Coursework At Gcse
GCSE coursework for Computer Science will not count for any marks amid fears about widespread cheating, the exam watchdog has said.
The move follows concern that thousands of students were given undue assistance, with Ofqual finding dozens of examples where students were able to obtain answers posted on online forums and websites.
Examples of malpractice included students posting the tasks on forums asking for help, with other members responding with detailed solutions and code which they could simply copy and past.
The watchdog has now ruled that coursework - which is meant to make up 20 per cent of a student’s overall grade - will not count towards the final grade for all Computer Science students sitting their exams in 2018 and 2019.
“The speed with which the tasks appeared on-line and the number of times the discussions and solutions were viewed threatened the integrity of this aspect of the qualification,” Ofqual’s report said.
In November, the exams watchdog launched a consultation on changes to computer science.
Yesterday, their report said that responses to the consultation confirmed their view that the “current situation is untenable”.
The UK's largest examination board has called for an end to coursework counting towards pupils' GCSE grades in England, labelling it as cumbersome, open to abuse and "disliked by many teachers and loathed in some subjects".
The report by the OCR exam board comes as the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual mull proposals to revise GCSEs, including the role of coursework, known as "controlled assessment".
Mark Dawe, the board's chief executive, said: "OCR recognises that the way coursework is currently assessed in the classroom fails to give reliable results. It's time for a major rethink on coursework so that everyone can have full confidence in the exam system."
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said this year that internal assessment such as coursework "should be kept to a minimum and used only where there is a compelling case to do so", making grades dependent on a final examination at the end of two years' study.
Controlled assessment – work done in the classroom, supervised by teachers under exam conditions – was introduced in 2009. The amount of coursework currently used towards final grades for each subject varies, with up to 60% of marks in GCSE English coming from coursework, compared with 25% in science.
The OCR report says internally assessed coursework is vulnerable to being abused by schools. Although it stops short of accusing schools of cheating, the report makes reference to schools using coursework to "optimise students' grades", and "upward-tilted marking" caused by "potential leniency".
"[Teachers] are torn between needing to continually improve their exam results and yet also to be impartial assessors of their pupils' coursework," said Dawe.
Among the alternatives to teacher-led assessment, the report suggests exam boards conduct assessments through school visits, but notes that this would be "frighteningly expensive, and complex to organise".
Some educationalists argue that removing coursework could disproportionately hurt girls' results. For 25 years girls have outperformed boys in most subjects at GCSE level, while some research suggests boys tend to perform more confidently in exams alone.
In a separate submission to Ofqual, OCR said the regulator's plan to replace GCSE letter grades with a numerical grading system of 1 to 8 points would not show a clean break with past exams because it was too close to the old system.
"Where the old and new grades can be readily equated, there are huge pressures and disadvantages both for pupils on the old system and pupils who are exposed to the first five or so years of the new system," OCR wrote.
OCR also objected to Ofqual's statement that GCSE performance should be used to hold schools accountable. "Exam results are only one indicator by which a school should be held accountable, and not the only one. There are a wide range of factors such as teaching quality, access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, pastoral care, leadership which need to be accounted for, and focusing too heavily on examination results can have detrimental effects on the others," OCR said.
The Department for Education said: "We agree that unnecessary coursework undermines the reliability of assessment. That is why we want to cut back on coursework, modules and controlled assessment. These reforms will restore confidence in GCSEs and tackle grade inflation.
"We have asked Ofqual to review how we might limit coursework and controlled assessment. Ofqual's consultation ended this week."