Ofqual consults on changes to reformed music and dance qualifications

Ofqual has launched a consultation into proposed changes to the reformed GCSEs, AS and A-levels in music and dance, after their first delivery this summer exposed issues with how to assess pupils’ performances.

The exams watchdog wants to change the way a student’s performance is marked if it turns out to be shorter than the minimum length; broaden the range of reference materials musicians can draw on; and adjust the number of dances students can perform at GCSE level.

The consultation will be open for four weeks, starting on November 9, and ending on December 9.

The numbers of pupils taking arts subjects such as music and dance have been under scrutiny recently, with some suggesting the introduction of the English Baccalaureate has squeezed out creative subjects in favour of more ‘academic’ options – though schools minister Nick Gibb denies the suggestion.

Just last month Schools Week reported that the number of schools offering GCSE and A-level music courses to pupils is in decline, prompting concerns that the subject is “disappearing”.

Teaching of the reformed GCSEs, AS and A-levels in music and dance began in September 2016, with the reformed AS qualifications first awarded in summer 2017, and the GCSEs and A-levels in summer 2018.

Students must carry out a performance assessment as part of each of the qualifications, with a specific time length that candidates should try to meet.

Under the current arrangements, if a pupil’s performance is too short they get no marks at all, regardless of the quality of their work.

The first year of the reformed courses saw some candidates choosing a piece to perform that was less than the minimum time,  while others performed more quickly than they meant to or failed to complete their total performance.

Ofqual’s consultation document said: “In some cases, we think it may be disproportionately severe in such circumstances to prevent students from gaining any marks at all.”

Proposed changes to reference materials for musicians were inspired by that fact that “not all styles or genres of music use written scores – particularly those based on improvisation”.

Currently, GCSE or A-level musicians must provide exam boards with “the score or lead sheet for that performance”, but Ofqual noted that “some flexibility is appropriate” with styles such as ” folk and world music, and contemporary genres such as rap”.

The watchdog suggested that where a written score is not available candidates should be able to present a different kind of reference sheet for what they plan to perform.

Finally, in GCSE dance Ofqual higlighted that its rules are “unintentionally, slightly inconsistent with the wording of the DfE’s subject content”.

The DfE requires learners to demonstrate the ability to “perform one or more dances”, while Ofqual’s conditions state that a student should perform “a dance”.

In light of this, Ofqual proposed that it should amend its conditions to allow pupils to perform more than one dance if they wish.

The consultation asked for feedback on issues such as the ” costs or benefits” of the proposals, and whether they will have any specific impact on students who share “a particular protected characteristic”.

Respondents can submit their ideas in an online survey or via email or post.

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