Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Vicky McCarthy

One board could run one academic science specification and one vocational science specification for GCSE. This would reduce the entire checking etc which takes place now to establish parity between boards.

The way in which internal assessments are moderated is different for different boards. For example, Edexcel specifies particular students work required for moderation prior to the marks being submitted, whilst OCR and AQA choose work to be moderated after all marks are sent to the board. This system is advantageous to teachers of Edexcel candidates.

A “C” grade at BTEC is not the equivalent of a “C” grade at GCSE, and this very useful vocational qualification has been greatly abused to boost the 5 A–C grades in many school.

Triple Science is not recognised in league tables. Many teachers work very hard to give pupils the opportunity of studying the three sciences, only to see this counted as two grades in government tables.

Papers used to be completed by testers. I understand that this is no longer the case. The number of mistakes is very concerning as it is completely off putting for candidates who waste time on unanswerable questions. Pupils are now beginning to assume that if a question appears to be unanswerable, it must be a mistake, which of course may not be the case. With one board and less papers, resources could be channelled into getting things right.

AQA are very good at supporting teachers with free INSET and a good network for enquiries. By contrast, OCR charge for INSET sessions and there are never enough places for all who wish to attend.

Examination fees are now a huge proportion of the school budget and in addition, pupils who wish to retake exams must pay themselves which discourages the less well off or pupils without supportive parents.

The arrangements for Science exams is now extremely complicated and time consuming and the new ISA exams take so long to complete that some schools do not do any practical work apart from the ISAs, which is certainly not in the spirit of the subject. It would be much easier to change exams for the better if there was one board rather than several competing for business.

November 2011

Prepared 2nd July 2012