Webinar on GCSE science practicals: recording and questions


January 30
11:56 2015

Ofqual is consulting on changes to how practicals are assessed in GCSE science. On 28 January we held an online seminar (commonly called a webinar) where anyone interested in learning more about our proposals could hear from us and have the opportunity to ask questions.

Watch the presentation

Science Practicals Webinar - 28 January 2015

Read the questions and answers

If the proposal is suggesting that the GCSE practical assessment takes a similar approach to A level, why does GCSE practical count for 15% but none in A level?

At A level as for GCSE 15% of the marks in examinations will be for questions which require students to draw on their practical science experiences.

At A level we will be provided all the materials to carry out the tasks, does this mean the same approach will be taken at GCSE? Will this still be vulnerable to widespread malpractice?

Apparatus and techniques needed for GCSE will be specified in the same way as for A level.

Do schools have to keep the log books of practicals all the time? Otherwise pupils could change their reports.

Our consultation is about the approach. This question is about the detail of operation and we would welcome feedback about how best this could be implemented.

Can you confirm: in written exams 15% of the marks will be based on practical skills and 15% of the marks on mathematical skills?

Yes, we can confirm that - they are both minimums - but the mathematical skills must be in a science context.

You say in your consultation document that other countries do things differently. Have you looked in detail at other countries systems where practical assessment is part of the grade?

Yes. The educational structures in other countries vary, with few countries having the formal assessment at 16 that we have in England. Likewise the use of direct assessment can vary with both the stage of education and its purpose.

Will the consultation process be affected by Nicky Morgans speech last night asking for a U-turn about practical assessment?

This is an open consultation and part of the constructive dialogue she mentions.

There are a differing number of practical skills to be tested for physics, chemistry and biology in the consultation - why is this?

The proposed list of apparatus and techniques has been compiled by the DfE and reflects the content requirements for each subject. They are considered to be balanced, but do let us know if you feel differently.

What is the purpose of insisting on a school record and a student record of experiments completed? If a student is often absent or works away from school, does this mean they cannot access the qualification?

This is where it is important to have further dialogue about the details once the approach is agreed.

If you are concerned about malpractice in teacher assessment of practical assessments why dont you look to improve that instead of getting rid of it from the grade?

Our concerns are about the negative impact this is having on teaching and learning, such as narrowing of the curriculum. We want students to have the right practical learning experiences, making them memorable for the right reasons. Many teachers agree.

How would you like awarding bodies to take part in the monitoring process?

This is a matter of operational detail and we would welcome your views.

Do you expect a potential portfolio or log book model as may have been suggested for pupils at key stage 5?

Again we would welcome views on this.

How will a few set experiments broaden experience more than the current system?

At the moment the minimum requirement is one experiment. We are suggesting a minimum of 8. But we want teachers to be free to do as much as they wish beyond that.

How will the school stating that students have done experiments be any more robust than the present system?

This ties into the details of the monitoring arrangements. As 15% of the marks in exams are proposed to be on practical activities we would expect this to drive the right behaviours.

Will the mathematical skills be 15% across all units or 15% in each unit?

It would be 15% in each qualification. This may be covered in different ways by different exam boards. Please remember that the new qualifications will be linear, not modular/unitised.

In a time of insufficient funding where schools are struggling to cut costs this could result in practical demonstrations by teachers rather than students doing experiments. Less cost, less resource, minimal need for technicians could lower cost but be a worse outcome for students

Our proposals state that each specification must give students opportunities to demonstrate the techniques listed.

What form will the evidence take to show that students have completed the task?

In principle in the student record, as discussed in our consultation. This is a level of detail on which we would welcome your views.

The consultation document suggests that schools will be required to confirm to exam boards that the students have done the required practical work before they sit exams. What if they havent?

This is a matter of operational detail for which we would have to consider balancing the responsibilities of centres and the impact on individual students.

If the approach is similar to A level will there be quantitative, qualitative and evaluative activities or will each practical cover all three?

There is more than one approach to this. That is for each exam board to determine and detail in their specifications.

If the systems in use in Singapore and Cambridge International O levels are good - why arent we looking at their systems?

We have looked at a wide range of systems (eg see page 7 of the consultation) and have considered them in the context of the wider educational system in England.

Have any of the alternative methods which Gatsby looked at been considered?

All proposals that were submitted as part of previous consultations and engagement were fully considered. We have drawn on these in this current consultation.

Is the expectation that the foundation paper will only require foundation maths?

Page 5 of the Department for Education content makes clear that The mathematics should be at levels up to, but not beyond, the requirements specified in GCSE mathematics for the appropriate tier.

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