Schools that begin teaching pupils their GCSEs in year 9, as part of a three-year course, are faced with teaching content not yet approved by Ofqual.
Prompted by the increased amount of content in the new GCSEs, several schools have introduced a three-year key stage 4, beginning in year 9, to give pupils more time to prepare for the exams at the end of year 11.
Harris Federation’s East Dulwich Boys School states on its website that pupils will be taught the new GCSEs such as physics, geography, drama and music from this September, even though these will not be examined until 2018.
On its website, the school said: “The assessments are likely to be more challenging, which is why we have moved to a three-year KS4 starting in year 9. This allows us to better prepare students for the new GCSEs and gives them more time to develop their depth of knowledge, thinking skills and exam technique.”
But several of the new exams, including history, are not yet accredited by any exam board. Content could still change – with pupils having wasted time on incorrect materials.
Seven secondary schools within the Harris Federation, including East Dulwich, have a three-year key stage 4. Elsewhere, the Buckingham School and Morpeth School in east London also have key stage 4s that start in year 9.
The Historical Association’s (HA) education manager, Melanie Jones, said schools teaching a three-year curriculum from this September could feel “relatively safe” in terms of content as many of the changes needed for accreditation related to assessment.
However, she added: “From my perspective, I would imagine the HA would advise against teaching an unaccredited specification, but accept that unfortunately some schools may have to do this from September (if they are teaching a three-year KS4) if specifications haven’t been accredited by then.
“This is an unfortunate circumstance . . . but those schools affected will have to start teaching something to their year 9s on a three-year KS4 come September, and so may well be having to prepare lessons based upon as-yet unaccredited specifications.”
An Ofqual spokesperson said: “Our reform process of GCSEs ensures that sufficient time is available to schools to prepare for these new qualifications based upon the usual two-year period for teaching. We understand that schools take a range of teaching strategies and they should take the approach that they feel best prepares their students for the new specifications.
“We accredit GCSEs and other qualifications only when we are presented, by the awarding body, with a specification that meets our rigorous standards.”