The longer this accreditation process drags on, the more it is going to be a real problem, warns union leader
Well over half of the new GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications being introduced in September have still not been officially approved, just 18 school weeks before they are due to be taught, TES can reveal.
Figures from exams watchdog Ofqual show that 65 of 156 specifications have been accredited, leaving 91, or 58 per cent, still in draft form. This includes all GCSE science papers, none of which have yet been officially approved.
Schools have just a term and a half, or 18 weeks of term time, left before the qualifications are introduced for teaching.
“Quite frankly, this isn’t good enough,” Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told TES. “All the time this is going on, it’s an increasing problem.”
He said that although teachers would do most of their preparation for teaching the new qualifications after this year’s exam season was over, the delays would leave schools choosing at the last minute which exam boards to use and “compressing into a small amount of time” all of their preparation work.
He said headteachers’ and teachers’ unions may ask the government to create additional inset days because of the lateness of the approved specifications. This would give teachers more time for “detailed planning”, he said.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, wrote in an article for TES this month that the low numbers of approved specifications were a “national scandal” and a sign that Ofqual had “no sense of a school’s working year, or the time and effort it takes for teachers to prepare, plan and implement a new qualification syllabus”.
“The impact of late notification of qualification changes on teachers is huge,” she wrote.
TES reported in October that headteachers had told Ofqual they felt like “Mystic Meg” because they were trying to tell pupils and their parents about the new qualifications before they themselves had seen approved specifications.
But Julie Swan, Ofqual’s acting director for general qualifications, has insisted that the regulator is “not complacent” about the process of approving the qualifications.
Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council and a member of Ofqual’s board, told TES this week that the regulator was “pushing hard” to get new specifications approved.
“They can’t accredit a syllabus unless it’s of the standard that has been established,” he said.
An Ofqual spokesman said: “We remain committed to keeping schools, teachers and students up to date with accreditation progress.
“To this end, we regularly update our website with details of approvals and anticipated submission dates.”