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GCSE, AS and A level reform: accreditation enters its third phase

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Today we will receive the first submissions from exam boards seeking accreditation for new GCSEs, AS and A levels for first teaching from September 2017.

Our accreditation process is designed to make sure exam boards can deliver qualifications of a good quality, in which teachers and students can trust. It is the last stage of a necessarily lengthy and involved process that involves the development of content and regulatory requirements that all new GCSEs, AS and A levels must meet. Last year, Phil Beach our Director of Strategic Relationships for General Qualifications wrote a blog about our accreditation process, which I encourage anybody with an interest in this area to read.

In the case of subjects being introduced for first teaching in 2017, new content – for which Department for Education is responsible – has been available for some time. The provision of this information is consistent with the commitments made in the Government’s workload challenge. That document also makes clear that accredited specifications will follow later. We have consulted on and published our regulations for each of the qualifications too. That’s the basis on which we have constructed our submission timetables for exam boards each year, including the one we have published today. It shows that we are anticipating submissions in 35 subjects over the next four months. To make the process manageable, for the exam boards and for us, the timetable is staggered by subject.

This is the third phase of reformed qualifications at GCSE, AS and A level. GCSEs in English language, English literature and mathematics, and AS and A levels in art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology and sociology are already being taught. We are also currently undertaking a review of the 2016 accreditation process with a view to making next year’s as efficient as possible. Throughout the process we must always be confident that the content requirements are met though I’d like to take this opportunity to remind people that we encourage and welcome innovation.

We know that some specifications for first teaching this September remain outstanding.

To date, 131 of 147 specifications (89%) for teaching from this September have been accredited. In summary, all GCSE specifications in history, geography, dance, music, art and design, classical Greek, Latin, computer science, chemistry, biology, physics, combined science, citizenship, food preparation and nutrition and physical education have been accredited. At AS and A level all specifications in dance, music, classical Greek, Latin, physical education, drama and theatre have been accredited. And there are at least two accredited specifications in the remaining five GCSEs and four A levels.

As of today, 16 specifications for 2016 teaching are outstanding. We understand that in these cases teachers may worry that they do not have an approved specification from their preferred exam board. We do not set a deadline by which these specifications must be approved and teachers can see from our table the stage in the process that each outstanding qualification is at. As we will only accredit specifications when they meet our criteria, teachers may wish to set their own deadline and choose another exam board’s specification if their preferred one is not available by a certain date.

But that is their choice. My focus, and that of my colleagues, remains on ensuring that we make sure exam boards deliver assessments and awarding arrangements most likely to support the best qualifications for students. This year, and every year.

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