Recent months have seen many new QCA developments and strands of work. In March, they issued their annual regulatory reports relating to the summer 2005 examinations in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The reports available include ones on: the performance of awarding bodies; the number of enquiries about results and appeals; and reviews of standards in French, Computing and ICT, Mathematics, and Sociology.
Meanwhile, Ken Boston, QCA chief executive, has said that he is pushing for the overall burden of assessment in England and Wales to be reduced. He said, ‘The assessment load is huge. It is far greater than in other countries and not necessary for the purpose.’ Under QCA plans, from September 2008, pupils will take four papers for most A level papers, instead of the current six.
QCA has also been consulting on the development and implementation of functional skills. The new functional tests will be incorporated into English, Maths, and ICT GCSEs from 2008. Ken Boston, QCA Chief Executive, recently gave a speech on Maths education to the Commons Advisory Committee on Education. He said, ‘Every young person, with the right programmes and effective teaching, can master at least the functional level of mathematics necessary for life and work…mathematics now underpins even the most basic operations in areas such as food processing, health care, packaging, pharmaceuticals and tourism, just as much as it does the more traditional areas of engineering and electronics.’ The new functional skills will exist as stand-alone qualifications, but models of integrating or incorporating them into GCSEs are still under discussion.
Also in his speech on Maths education, Ken Boston welcomed Ruth Kelly’s announcement of the introduction of a Further Maths GCSE intended to ‘challenge the more able, engaging them in mathematical studies from a more abstract and structural perspective’ and emphasised that he thought that the new specialised diplomas would ‘provide an opportunity to drive up the level of performance in mathematics, especially for many young people who otherwise might not engage at all’.