Welsh teachers’ unions alarmed at sudden GCSE changes
Teachers’ unions have expressed concern over the Welsh Government’s unexpected decision to introduce changes to the existing GCSE English language course.
According to the proposed framework, exams will carry more weight than coursework with external assessment being increased from 40% to 60%. In addition, a unit that focuses on spoken language has been withdrawn.
The changes will affect Year 10 students who have already begun their coursework and will sit their GCSEs in 2014.
“This subsequent change to the subject specification is vital to ensure that Welsh students can receive fair and just treatment when they sit their exams in 2014,” a Welsh Government spokesperson commented.
Teachers’ unions in Wales are unhappy they were not notified in advance and feel that the introduction of these sudden changes highlights the Welsh Government’s ‘lack of experience’ as a regulator, claims the BBC
Rebecca Williams, a Policy Officer with the Welsh teachers’ union UCAC (Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru) said: "The fact is that the unspoken convention is that teachers are given at least a term's notice, a term plus the summer holidays, of changes to any specification. The problem is with the timing because teachers began teaching this course and students started following the course in September.”
The NASUWT has requested an urgent reconsideration of the decision and the NUT (National Union for Teachers) in Wales has also shown its disappointment by writing a letter to the Education Minster Leighton Andrews.
“Resources have already been purchased and asking teachers to teach a new specification which has yet to be announced is farcical,” said David Evans, Secretary of NUT Wales.
The new specification follows the GCSE row in August, when the results of exams held in the summer were affected by shifts in grade boundaries.
At the time, a review was ordered by the Welsh Government and subsequently, nearly 2,400 students who took English with the WJEC (old Wales Joint Education Committee) examination board, achieved better results.
Gareth Pierce, Chief Executive of WJEC said: “WJEC acknowledges the challenges teachers may face in managing these changes to the way the GCSE English Language qualification is assessed in 2014, but we recognise the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensuring the validity and reliability of the assessment for the future.”
Additional training is being planned for spring 2013 which will help teachers integrate the new specifications into their teaching plans. A final review of the exam system is due in November when teachers will be informed about the subject specification.