Computer Science practical assessments are set for changes this summer despite widespread opposition. Ofqual has decided to axe the marks usually applied to the practical assessments in GSCE computer science. This follows widespread malpractice that was taking place, but teachers are warning that this could lead to a de-motivation of pupils who believed they had already completed 20% of the assessed course.
What do the changes mean? - Following this change there will be no more marks for coursework in computer science at GCSE. This means that the work completed throughout the year at the school desk will be unrated and will not affect the final result for the student. Instead, all of the marks available will be obtained based on exam performance alone. While Ofqual is keeping the complement of the coursework project of 20 hours in controlled conditions in the requirements, this work at the school desk will not contribute to the final grade that the pupil is now able to obtain.
What caused the change? - Changes to the system have been made by Ofqual following suggestions that there has been widespread malpractice in the examination system for computer science courses. They state that penalties for school staff have increased by 149% and the number of penalties for students has also increased. Penalties have been issued to students in large part for taking unauthorised items into the exam room and staff have been penalised for malpractice in enforcing rules effectively. Such widespread malpractice has made the examining body determine that the system cannot currently be considered to have been fair.
What did the consultation say? - Ofqual launched a consultation in November that found that the majority of respondents believed that the existing system for non-exam assessment had shortcomings and needed to be updated. Ofqual states that the consultation confirmed its views and meant that the system needed to be changed to protect the validity of the qualification. More than half of the respondents, however, also objected to the Ofqual proposal to require the task to be completed without the benefit of any marks being obtained. Many of the consulted exam boards wanted the non-exam assessment carried out at school desks to count towards the pupil's grades.
What are the concerns? Teacher concerns are that students will be de-motivated having worked hard to complete the non-exam assessment to the best of their ability. The change that means it is now worth no marks will put more pressure on pupils who believed that they had already completed 20% of the course. Teachers have also expressed concerns for those who struggle in exam conditions and find it difficult to offer their best when being tested in an exam environment.