Ofqual could rethink approach to approving new GCSEs and A levels

The proposed new Ofqual chief executive, Sally Collier, has indicated that the exams watchdog could take a “different approach” to the approval of new GCSEs and A levels, to make sure teachers have “enough time” to prepare for the qualifications.

Speaking to the Commons education committee this morning, Ms Collier said making sure new qualifications, due to be taught from September, were accredited on time would be her “most immediate challenge”.

Ms Collier is the government’s preferred candidate for the role. Asked whether, in general, she thought reforms should be introduced as a “quick fix” or at a “gentler approach”, she said neither was quite right.

She offered the example of the accreditation of new GCSEs and A levels, saying: “If we look at accreditation, are we likely to get enough subjects accredited so teachers have enough time to teach – I think good progress is being made.

“If there comes a point where the potential for Ofqual to fulfil its role is compromised then clearly it’s a decision for the Ofqual board to say no, a different approach needs to be taken.”

Ms Collier acknowledged that the exams system was in the middle of “an intensive period of reform” and said 77 of the 156 new GCSE and A level specifications had now been approved.

The long wait for new exam specifications to be approved has sparked fury in the profession, with Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, warning last month that it was a “national scandal”.

But Ofqual’s acting executive director for general qualifications, Julie Swan, responded that the watchdog was “not complacent” about getting the new specifications approved.

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