No ‘end’ to science practicals says exam regulator – in face of contrary claims

Ofqual’s chief regulator has defended the direction of its reforms to science practicals in the face of criticisms by the education minister.

Last year, following consultation, Ofqual decided to adopt written assessment of 12 practical science knowledge at A level. It has now proposed the same for GCSE science – where a minimum of eight will be required. The consultation closes today.

Glenys Stacey said today (Wed) at the Association of Colleges Examinations Officers’ conference in Nottingham that the previous system of assessing science practicals at GCSE and A-level was broken and ‘one that nobody should wish to see continue’. She said it had encouraged teachers to repeat a small number of practicals “in order to achieve the best possible grades”.

Ms Stacey said the regulator had “not come to these proposals lightly”. She was responding to comments by education minister Nicky Morgan in a speech last week where she expressed concern that a decision to “remove practical assessment from science was holding back the next generation of scientists”.

These charges were denied by Ms Stacey who said that claims the regulator were “ending” science practicals “could not be further from the truth”. The proposed reforms, she said, increased the amount, quality and fairness of science practical.

Under the new system, A level students will have a separate practical grade to aim for and will be required to keep a logbook of their practical work. She said that this will lessen time pressure and ensure students are not penalised in their main grade “for getting wrong results” – leading to a more worthwhile experience for both teachers and pupils.

Schools will be required to sign a form confirming to their exam board that each student has completed the practical activities.

She added that the regulator “intend to take similar precautions with GCSEs should those in schools responding to our consultation agree”

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