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DfEConsult15_Report_ALL_FINAL_v1

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DfEConsult15_Report_ALL_FINAL_v1

  1. 1. ConsultGov CONSULTATION RESPONSE GCSE & A-Level Reform Phase 3 AUGUST 2015
  2. 2. Contents Executive Summary.....................................................................................................................................2 Methodology / Outline of the Day.........................................................................................................4 Findings.........................................................................................................................................................6 GCSE Economics .....................................................................................................................................6 GCSE Business.........................................................................................................................................6 GCSE Design and Technology.............................................................................................................7 GCSE Psychology...................................................................................................................................8 A-Level Philosophy.................................................................................................................................9 GCSE Sociology ...................................................................................................................................10 Why Engage?............................................................................................................................................11 Conclusion...................................................................................................................................................14 Abstract This is a student response to the Department for Education’s consultation on reformed GCSE and A-Level subject content for teaching from 2017. An event was held at the DfE headquarters in London on 29th July 2015 to gather the views of students. This was supported by Voting Counts UK, the World Youth Organization and Mock Recruit. The event was facilitated by ConsultGov and hosted by the Department for Education. Subjects  GCSE Design and Technology  GCSE Business  GCSE Economics  GCSE Sociology  GCSE Psychology  A Level Philosophy Subjects The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the individual attendees and do not necessarily reflect the position of the facilitators, ConsultGov, Voting Counts UK, the World Youth Organization, Mock Recruit or the Department for Education.
  3. 3.  Executive Summary Since our last event in October last year, it will seem like little has changed within such a short space of time. However, during that period between the start of a new term last year, students will have completed exams, finished their studies at school or college and will be looking to start the next stage of their lives. With the current course of curriculum reforms to be completed by 2017, many of the subjects have now already gone through consultation or are now ready for implementation. Unlike our last event also, a new government has been elected and that too will naturally bring many changes with it in the course of this Parliament. Schools Minister at the Department for Education (DfE) Nick Gibb has written on the changes proposed for this set of subject content consultation in wanting to ensure they are ‘rigorous and more knowledge based and to match the qualifications used in the best education systems in the world.’ While the primary target audience for this consultation are academics and experts who can advise on the quality of the subject content, the views of students themselves, particularly if they had studied any of the consulted subjects, are equally as invaluable and can highlight any strong issues that could be improved for their peers in the future. While the content will meet praise and criticism from all sides, as it has already been expressed in equal measure by the students here, it was a tremendous insight into the many ideas of young people who attended this latest ConsultGov event in July. There is much food for thought when students posed their concerns around the theme of engagement on the process for consultation, which
  4. 4. features as a new section here. It is a privilege again to outline the feedback from the day in this report.  Jack Welch *Please note a background to these reforms is not provided in this report, as the context of this consultation remains the same as previously. Please see the October 2014 report for this information.
  5. 5.  Methodology / Outline of the Day The consultation brought together approximately 30 students across various parts of England and attracted interest from those currently taking GCSE or A Levels, as well as those who have progressed into Higher Education or elsewhere. During the course of this event, the agenda was broken into a number of related discussions and activities which allowed students to understand the purpose behind the reforms and creating effective engagement. Both roundtables followed a consistent format of a facilitator supporting three groups of students to discuss the allocated subject proposals. Ideas were transcribed on the flipchart paper provided and feedback, led by members from each group, was recorded for the purpose of capturing those responses in this report. Rather than focus on all 8 GCSE and the 5 A Level consultations, groups focused their attention on the most likely studied choices available which were:  GCSE Design and Technology  GCSE Business  GCSE Economics  GCSE Sociology  GCSE Psychology  A Level Philosophy Throughout the group sessions, students were asked to bear in mind:  Whether there is a suitable level of challenge.  Whether the content reflects what students need to know in order to progress onto further academic/vocational study. Although there is an imbalance in favour of GCSE specifications, some of the subjects in this consultation were not studied by any of the students present at this event and would have proved counterproductive
  6. 6. to give feedback without any experience. A role play feature explored scenarios across the Equality Act 2010 (encompassing Disability, Gender Reassignment, Pregnancy & Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex (Male/Female), Sexual Orientation) and how these factors could influence situations based upon the identified groups. Unlike the previous consultation on these reforms, there was greater consideration on individual ideas rather than formal debates on opposing sides to identify particular issues. 
  7. 7.  Findings As detailed in the outline of the event, there were two roundtable sessions with three groups scrutinising one of the chosen subjects. Their thoughts, where some of the discussion was more extensive on some compared to others, are summarised here GCSE Economics For this subject, students acknowledged the breadth of topics in which students would be undertaking in the course of their studies. There is a concern in relation to ‘sustainable’ trends to the concepts was not given sufficient priority and in light of the significant challenges still ongoing at home and abroad, an understanding of the wider consequences of economic factors deserve greater weight. This was similarly expressed for ‘macro and micro’ economics and implications in this regard. Equally, it was seen that while most could agree that the role of government was important, it should not be the only priority in relation to what is concentrated on in classes and with a broader remit than just the UK government to draw comparisons. Students who excel in their work should also be provided with further insight across different topic areas, while those that struggle are given encouragement to understand some of the areas in a way that suits them. GCSE Business Students identified Business as one subject which has a close similarity to some of the concepts around Economics. Although a merger was proposed in the discussions, it was reminded that exam boards have the power to set their own syllabuses and that right is not from the authority by government. Issues on how all students from an earlier age need adequate financial education were also emphasised, but it was understood that Years 7-9 will already be receiving
  8. 8. this learning in future. In considering these reforms, a strong emphasis was made on the need to develop entrepreneurship skills and a wider understanding of what it takes to create and sustain an enterprise. Courses like ‘Young Enterprise’ were recommended to participate outside of classes. While core functions in the specification are still necessary, significant evolutions around technology and social media also need equal parity in the approach of how businesses engage with their consumers. As vital it is to cover as much ground in the course of the GCSE, students indicated that if more attention was given to specific areas and long term projects, such as running a model business as a group, were felt to be vital if lessons from this subject could be practically applied in later life. As it stands, many teachers educating on the subject were felt to be falling short of the standards which students should understand the topics covered and has to be reflected as a matter of priority in which the subject is regarded. GCSE Design and Technology There was much praise on the reforms taking place for DT. On the one hand, it was felt that the requirement of creating prototypes was felt to be sufficiently stimulating and the content of the specification looked more than challenging to reflect the demands beyond GCSE. However, as one student in the group iterated to the group from a friend who had studied this themselves, it was seen that the level of demand in coursework was intensive and discouraged people from enjoying the vocation behind the subject because of its difficulty. A balance of achieving good quality coursework and equal rigour needs to be factored by exam boards who will be designing their own specification. As having a good standard of maths
  9. 9. was also illustrated as an important subject where an understanding could be applied to this, some who may struggle with the more academic aspect of learning, practical talent and ability should not be discounted and to be judged on an individual basis. Creativity in ability and application is necessary for a student’s development. One student had the idea of even separating engineering from the rest, but still incorporates elements of the course. The group discussing the document felt much of what was written was repetitive in some cases and specific headings which discussed numerous facets of DT would have proved useful. GCSE Psychology In the course of this discussion, it was felt the written content, though often complex for those unfamiliar with the subject was sufficiently straightforward to be interpreted by exam boards in designing their course specification to make it rigorous in its practice. Some concerns arose in one sense that the allocated coursework study into a choice of selected topics may be limiting if a student may find a relevant area of research which may be relevant to the course and could be something which motivates them in the course of their work. Perhaps allow this in the optional respect, where they can consult with teachers. Conversely, it was agreed students did need to learn of theories that have now been otherwise challenged or disproven in order to broaden their thinking and allow them to make their own conclusions should they take the subject for further study. Questions were asked whether some of the concepts tackled in the specification are appropriate for the age of students taking the subject and that consideration has to be given to the extent of covering serious mental
  10. 10. health issues and criminal related activity, where further investigation can be taken into A Level. Exam boards must be careful too in looking at the proportion of theory based evidence to what is considered factually accurate and to ensure students are informed of areas which are credible and those that are dubious. A-Level Philosophy It was identified in the course of this discussion that students would be sufficiently challenged in being able to scrutinise diverse topics in the philosophy syllabus and analysing various schools of thought, which would advance students in HE. In the course of the feedback, significant disagreement was found to the inclusion of religious studies as part of the course material and whether it was best separate as its own subject field or whether it was best to continue integrating it as part of Philosophy. While some argued that much of Western culture is inseparable from Christianity, as an example, it is harder to disregard some of its teachings to understand some of the philosophical debates. It was widely agreed though that religion would remain intrinsic to the concepts being learned and that students who were previously disinclined to carry on the subject, because of a lack of attention to other aspects, such as philosophy of art, would be enhanced. Students were concerned that the reading list suggested would be very intensive and solutions must be found to ensure that while they read different texts, closer scrutiny should be paid to specific passages in some to ensure the course is not impacted by the pace of reading required. Preparation for this kind of independent study is accepted for university study.
  11. 11. GCSE Sociology There were a number of concerns that were raised throughout the subject content of these changes. While the group which analysed this content reform were confident that much of the concepts covered would be intellectually rigorous and would allow the skill development of students, a fear was that many of the theories addressed were somewhat outdated and could not wholly be accepted as an accurate reflection on society as it is today. While figures such as Marx and Becker are included in the specification, the content should be more adventurous about issues that would relate to people in the present day. As part of some of the suggested changes to include, if possible, students should be allowed to challenge older theories with their own conclusions and to include debate activities as a more practical element to stimulate the critical thinking which students will require on in later study. A piece of work in evaluating society from a student’s perspective will too be beneficial in understanding the role that they have and which others contribute. Focusing alone on UK agendas will not be appropriate in a globalised age – considering the functions of other societies within the described context will be vital. 
  12. 12.  Why Engage? As these reforms are most likely to impact younger generations, or the age groups of the students who took part in this event, it was felt to be important as to why young people would take part in a consultation such as this and the benefits of being motivated in such activities. Responses to the facilitator leading this wider group included that it was a rare opportunity to be in the DfE itself for such an occasion and that having the benefit of hindsight meant that their input onto these reforms would be valuable in respect of referring to their learning experiences, particularly if they had studied the given subjects themselves. However, students were willing to criticise the DfE, besides other government departments in general, for their seeming lack of effort to reach out to young people. As one of them stated: “There’s not a scope to get young people’s views. It’s only been in the last few years that the government have thought ‘ooh, we should ask some young people what they think is important.’” Although these are opinions of students and may not reflect the Department’s own feelings on their efforts to engage with young people on their work, but this was a recurring theme which was highlighted by other students in the course of this activity. One suggested how in these consultations ‘You come to us, we [government] don’t come to you.’ It was seen by some as fortunate they were aware of this event, so they could at least have an input on discussions.
  13. 13. Other challenges raised included:  Teachers are too reliant on technology – in subjects like maths; one student indicated one of their siblings was struggling due to a strong emphasis on software to provide tasks and homework after lessons. This was said to be disengaging the young person with regards to their interest in the subject.  Grammar schools were sometimes viewed in higher esteem than their comprehensive counterparts and the academic excellence of those schools in the latter are not sufficiently given credit by parents or students who study in grammar schools for their quality.  This group may be the only cohort in this environment to discuss these reforms in greater detail. It was identified that many of the students participating are also civically highly engaged, so are more likely to be taking part in this kind of activity out of choice and may not be reaching out to those who have previously struggled in the consulted subjects. Some of the students present included Members of Youth Parliament (MYP) who felt that popular campaigns such as the ‘Curriculum for Life’, which focuses on the improvement on the quality of lessons such as PSHE and Citizenship Studies, that for the young people they represent it was felt that all subjects should integrate an element which explores personal development in a young person’s learning. It was strongly felt that the perceptions surrounding Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) study or International Baccalaureate
  14. 14. (IB) as options was often severely undermined. For students to study those which are beyond core or humanities remit, engaging them to ensure they have a choice of what to study without fear of prejudice and have equal priority in their support, as well as resources provided, will be beneficial. While BTEC courses have gained in popularity in recent years, there may be a cause for concern when they are not sufficiently preparing people for university. 1 Counter to criticism on over reliance of technology, it was recognised that schools and colleges must adapt consistently in its advancement and ensure students can utilise the resources available that can support their learning.  1 ‘Proportion of top BTEC students doubles: Hefce report’ Times Higher Education, February 26 2015 https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/prop ortion-of-top-btec-students-doubles-hefce- report/2018796.article
  15. 15.  Conclusion The debates from this round of consultation gives a stark reminder of the closer attention by the Department that calling on the views of students should be equal, and to some extent a greater priority for the views of young people across the country. As illustrated in the discussions on levels of engagement with younger generations on government reforms and policy, there is a great deficit in innovation and expertise which views of the effective service users of these subjects are not yet given serious priority when they could be extremely useful in their knowledge around consultation opportunities such as this. While this may be a critical assessment of the wider workings of government departments, it should be noted that the feedback posed by students in subject content was supportive of the need for intellectual challenge and ensuring that their application will have greater weight when continuing further study or looking for employment. It should not be forgotten that as rigorous the demands of the learning have to be for students, room for creativity and critical thinking must be allowed for students, affirming the commitment by the Education Secretary that the arts must not be forgotten and given equal weight in these largely humanities based subjects here.2 While activities in this event varied from that of October’s, it does not disregard some of the recommendations by students at that consultation. On the contrary, departments may wish to look again and consider the ideas which will bring young people into the department. It is now within the hands of the DfE as to what actions they will make of the 2 ‘Nicky Morgan defends her attitude to arts education’, Arts Professional, 6 July 2015 http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/nicky- morgan-defends-her-attitude-arts-education
  16. 16. individual subject responses and if they will give due consideration to the ideas put forward to ensure these reforms meet the criteria they have set themselves. 
  17. 17. ConsultGov ConsultGov 1 Northumberland Avenue Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5BW We wish to thank the Department for Education for hosting and funding the event. All the students, teachers, guests, volunteers and partner organisations who came along on the day. ConsultGov is especially grateful to Ammarah Javid, Isa Mutlib, Jack Welch and Kate Willoughby for their time in helping to run the event smoothly. Alice Dermody-Palmer Isa Mutlib Alysha Bodman Jack Welch Ammarah Javid Kate Willoughby Ayath Ullah Luke Thornton Chris Mells Maliha Reza Craig Bateman Michelle Akpata Danielle Osajivbe-Williams Natalie Canlas Edward Joseph Nayeema Babul Freya Pigott Rachael Farrington Gabriel Furey Ryan Giltinane Georgia Sykes Sherona Lan Gulwali Passaraly Stefany Coba Blandon Hamza Kazmi Surina Bharath Harriet Linley Tamanna Miah Harvey Chandler Tanjinna Miah

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