Extra time in exams - rules changing?

(122 Posts)
Sunhasgothishaton Mon 15-Jul-13 20:43:33

I've been told that getting extra time in exams is changing in September, and it will be a lot harder/tighter to get extra time.

My ds has dyslexia and has extra time. I was told unless he scores less than 85 on any of the standard scores he won't get the extra time but he scored 92.

Does anyone have any advice/info on this?

ukjess Sat 10-Aug-13 12:06:01

Dear CopthalResident-
I think you may have misread my previous post. I said that I have no strong opinion either way about the new curricula. I am not advocating either staying with GCSE nor moving to the new system.

I was pointing out however that critics of all these systems ie O-levels, GCSEs, proposed exams, tend to exaggerate unfairly.

Im not quite as old as your mother so I don't know about her O-levels but mine did involve many of the skills you are celebrating.

We clearly will have to disagree about the comparative standards of 16yr old exams over the preceding decades. Over my career there is no doubt in my mind that the exams have gotten significantly easier year on year. I know you fundamentally disagree and thats fine by me.

In any event I don't think Gove wants to dismiss ALL skills and wants only rote learning and chalk and talk.

As ever with these debates I think people are arguing over ratios.

From a personal point of view I think its ok to expect a young person to sit in silence and listen for 10 mins to expert exposition now and again and I know this isn't possible in some schools. That needs to be addressed of course but an eradication of project work, group learning, experience/discovery learning, debate work, presentations, peer diagnostic work etc - Ive seen or heard nothing to suggest that.

I don't think it can harm kids to know a few more key dates and detailed facts... but as I say I'm relaxed about the issue. My beef is with other issues within the uk education system.

Copthallresident Fri 09-Aug-13 23:17:02

ukjess I find your post deeply depressing, I showed it to my mother who is nearly 80 and a former Headmistress and she did too. You have forgotten so much that was bad about education in the past. I really don't see any point in engaging further. That rigour in 70s O levels you talk about was not respected by the bluestocking ex Oxbridge teachers at my direct grant, dismissed as a waste of time and not intellectually challenging enough, a mere acquisition of knowledge with little training in thinking skills, we moved quickly on at the end of Year 10 to our chosen A level courses and sat only the O levels in subjects that we were not going to study further. Why on earth you would advocate returning to an exam that was rightly deemed not fit for purpose in the 1980s to prepare our DCs for the 21st century is beyond me. Let alone supporting the deep injustice to pupils, those with learning difficulties and without, perpetuated by the rushed, ill thought thought out implementation of education strategies dreamt up by a few narrow minded politicians which have little support from educationalists, and have done so much damage to the current cohorts sitting GCSE and A level exams.

I will leave you with the words of a modern day Headmistress and educationalist, Head of one of Britain's foremost independent schools demonstrating how you can consider new teaching methods and old, and take the best of the present and the past

"My commentary this week centres on a recent article on dyslexia which raised a number of questions about educational approaches and how we encourage pupils to give the best and most creative responses. The article to which I refer, (based on research at Princeton University USA) suggests that dyslexic pupils learn better when asked to read information in challenging fonts, such as Monotype Corsiva (a decorative italic style), rather than in the more open typefaces (Arial or Comic Sans) which are usually recommended for pupils with learning difficulties. In brief, ease and accessibility of information appears to be less important in aiding memory and understanding than the mental tussle involved in decoding it.

It seems sensible to suggest that children learn better when making an effort to assimilate information. This is a hypothesis which fits well with our recent focus in staff INSET on active learning. Individual engagement in the acquisition of knowledge can be encouraged in many different ways. Research is one such method, especially when focused on a particular question requiring information to be sifted and analysed rather than gathered as a string of facts. Classroom challenges and debates promote learning through competition, giving the advantage to those who can justify their ideas clearly and succinctly. Problem solving focuses attention on the essence of an issue or on mathematical and scientific processes and hypotheses. The task of presenting ideas in different forms, whether written, pictorial, graphic, dramatic, spoken or in music, invites careful and considered thought. Learning at its best is not a passive process. Listening to a lecture can be active, but the prerequisite is that the audience should be engaged in the ideas being presented and this often requires a higher level of self motivation than can be guaranteed in a classroom. Chalk and talk, while by no means to be dismissed altogether, is currently out of vogue as a means of promoting deep learning and creativity.

Arguably, however, active learning is not enough as a recipe for success; there are at least two missing ingredients. The first is a proper factual base. The contention is that too much time nationally has been spent by pupils manipulating low-level information and that the taught curriculum needs to be reinforced and made more rigorous. This lies behind the majority of suggested educational reforms. There is some truth in this. To quote my own subject again, history text books, particularly at Key Stage Three, are often over simplified and limited in the information they provide. They can play to the lowest common denominator and often need supplementing with considerably more advanced material to give the topics depth and intellectual solidity. Similarly the questions posed in many of the GCSE, AS and A2 papers in all subjects are arguably limited in the level of thinking they invite and thereby fail to stretch as we would like. The proposed remedies, however, appear to give too much weight to factual recall as an educational virtue and thereby risk allowing too little time for information to be assimilated, discussed and developed.
It was interesting in this context to read the attacks made on the new History National Curriculum by Simon Schama at the Hay Festival over half term. His criticism was cutting in the extreme, perhaps the more so because he is named as one of the advisers. To his mind, the proposed framework is overloaded and prescriptive while also being overly Anglo-centric and therefore limited in its appeal and relevance: “1066 and all that, but without the jokes”. There is a danger that the pendulum will swing too far in the opposite direction.

The second missing ingredient is motivation. To my mind this overarches and intertwines the whole of the learning process and its absence is often the most important factor in explaining failure. To be faced with difficult fonts may help dyslexic pupils assimilate facts better, but my guess is that the theory will have limited application without the presence of a strong desire to learn. Motivation is a complex issue. It can have its roots in family background and aspiration, and it can also be influenced by the sense, which economic downturn does its best to suppress, that academic success is important for social and economic advancement. The classroom environment clearly plays an important role too. Here experience shows that motivation is more likely to be found in lessons which successfully combine erudition with active engagement. As ever, balance is all. The mark of a good teacher is the ability to stretch pupils with appropriately complex information alongside tasks which encourage mental challenge.

Moving towards a fact-based curriculum will bring the UK more in line with some of its foreign counterparts, but I wonder how much we will lose in the process. I hope that the critical voices ensure that sufficient space is given for teachers to continue encouraging the critical exploration of ideas, an approach to learning which makes us distinctive amongst other educational systems in the world."

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 15:59:58

Dear Copthal Resident,
Yes, at the time I read in great detail what happened- as I had predicted this scenario for many years. And along with a lot of other knowledgeable commentators thought it was a reasonable thing to do.

I know many teachers and the unions objected but I found their reasoning unpersuasive. Had nothing been done, quite simply a different set of kids would have been disadvantaged - and I'm quite sure the universities coped.

The fiasco wasnt the adjustment as such imo- the fiasco has been the continuous grade inflation and a system being flagrantly abused.

Eg A Science teacher informs me that even this year there is an exam board that asks for teacher CA scores AT THE SAME time as asking for selected kids in the moderation sample! Rather than the sample being requested after the CA marks are submitted. And this has been going on for years.

Interestingly History was also examined in the series I alluded to. There are no UCAS points for guessing how the A* GCSE historians fared on the o-level history papers....

I have heard mixed things from History teachers re the new History curriculum (ie they havent ALL been negative) but I do feel you are parodying the situation.

I am old enough to have sat O levels. And whilst there was emphasis on detail, memory and knowledge there was also application and skills.

Equally its wrong to say GCSE is ALL skills and zero knowledge.

I believe Gove is changing the ratio in an attempt to inject some rigour. I dont have strong opinions either way on the new curricula (I suppose as I have heard so many pros and cons) but I do chuckle at the 50s references.

Copthallresident Fri 09-Aug-13 14:29:50

ukjess do you actually understand what happened last year? Exam boards were leaned on to achieve deflation, some exam boards deflated some subjects more than others, the widely publicised GCSE debacle was the tip of the iceberg. The result was that depending which exam board and subject they sat a pupil could be badly affected or not affected at all. We have a school locally that has just been rated as requires improvement by Ofsted because of last year's GCSE results and yet the Ofsted Inspector acknowledged it had been particularly badly affected by what our Conservative Member for Education of our Council Cabinet describes as the GCSE fiasco. Many schools in our borough were not affected because they used different exam boards. My own DDs schools English literature results were down 40%, Wycombe Abbey 30% but her new school's results were not affected at all.

At the university end of things pupils were failing to achieve their offers on a scale never been seen before. Yet how were universities to determine who had not worked hard enough and did not merit a place and who was a victim of deflation? That is why they are very annoyed at the situation.

It is not a case of GCSEs and A levels of 2012 being deflated over 2011, some were, some were not.

You seem to have some strong opinions without ever having bothered to acquaint yourself with the evidence

One thing I am absolutely sure of, in my own subject History, the skills and knowledge required to achieve a GCSE are now far higher than they were when I sat O levels in the 70s . My DDs have covered a far wider syllabus and have had to understand not just mere political and government process, but also social and economic factors. They have had to develop arguments backed by evidence, something I wasn't required to do until A level and even university. And they have had a chance to research original sources, again something I didn't have a chance to do until university. It is acknowledged as one of the more demanding but also interesting GCSEs and I have been very pleased to see the level of challenge and interest it has offered my DDs. I went on to study History in spite of O level being a boring test of regurgitation. Gove of course wants to take us back there.....

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 14:01:40

02 April, 2013 - update
Submitting coursework or controlled assessment?

At this time of year, thoughts turn to the marking and submission of coursework and controlled assessment. This update contains a quick summary of these processes. There's also a reminder of the deadlines and the materials you need to send to the moderator.

Final dates for submission of coursework and controlled assessment
For the following qualifications, the final dates for submitting your marks and samples of work for the summer 2013 series is 15 May 2013:

GCSE English, English Language, English Literature, Digital Communication controlled assessment
Edexcel Certificate in English Language (submission of Speaking and Listening marks)
International GCSE English Language A (Papers 3 and 4) and English Literature (Paper 3)
GCE English Language, English Language and Literature and English Literature.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 13:55:17

Do you remember the programme- "That will Teach 'em"?

Every single English teacher I have ever met, young and old, has said Lang and Lit was way easier than when they were children.

The programme certainly backed those views. I know the unions don't like to admit this. But teachers with decades of experience who remember the old standards tend to be of that view. English has had grade inflation just like any other subject.

so which subjects/board have coursework then? DD2 is in the middle of her GCSes and has no coursework; DD1 didn't do any 6 years ago.

glaurung Fri 09-Aug-13 13:39:44

'There hasn't been coursework for YEARS'

children finishing GCSEs in 2010 (possibly 2011) were the last ones who did coursework rather than controlled assessments - so this year's cohort are the 3rd (or possibly 2nd) to have controlled assessments. There are still coursework elements to some A levels.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 13:34:34

No - coursework and CAs are very different and I haven't confused them.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 13:33:29

- ok, fair dos, maybe that school had untrained staff, or had a checkered history with Ed Psyches or felt she didnt meet their threshold (which may not have been sophisticated enough).

- I didnt share the sense of outrage as much re English fiasco. Even if one had managed the change more smoothly, the fact is the previous years cohort would have had a grade boost compared to the year after. Here we had a proportion of kids getting a D when they were hoping for a C. But in my view that D is still flattering to last years students. Because a student on a borderline low C who got 'demoted' to a D isnt exactly competent at English by most peoples standards. So I cant really feel they have a huge justification for complaint.

And I dont think 'blatant disregard' is quite fair- had they done nothing a different set of kids were being unjustly treated in comparison...

ps obviously same argument for A to B and E to F etc

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 09-Aug-13 13:27:13

English Lit is basically the same today as it was in 1983 except the kids have to do more (with the CAs). English Lang is much more difficult. In 1983 all you had to do was one two hour exam, comprising a comprehension, some directed writing, and a piece of creative writing. The comprehension was pretty basic, the directed writing was almost always a letter. Kids today have to do much more, including CAs, and they also have to study literature for their language exam.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 09-Aug-13 13:21:10

I think you are confusing coursework with controlled assessment.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 13:01:37

Um, there was coursework on multiple subjects until last year.

There is still some coursework in the new system.

Personally I concur with those experts and teachers and politicians that say the core subjects have been dumbed down including English over the past few decades.

And I personally knew functionally illiterate students who got B at English GCSE. I don't think illiterate students got B at O-level. Just my view- however bitter/twisted/maniacal that may happen to be.

Copthallresident Fri 09-Aug-13 12:08:54

ukjess no, school just refused to believe she was dyslexic at all, in spite of Ed Psych report with clear diagnosis, it was the problem that russians referred to of ignorance in the teaching profession. Her spelling wasn't that bad so she couldn't be dyslexic, at all, never mind how slow she was, her disorganisation, her coordination problems (she is dyspraxic as well) or that she had the highest reasoning scores in the year. It wasn't actually that we were seeking support, just some understanding. So that when she did poorly in memory based end of term exams they understood it was because of her poor processing and working memory (which you may have forgotten is so poor she does still qualify for extra time under the new regs, which as corny highlighted puts her in the bottom 14th percentile) not because she wasn't clever. She left that school with zero confidence in her ability in spite of having passed the entrance exam for one of the most selective schools in the country.

My perspective on the Gcse marking fiasco was that it discriminated unfairly against some pupils at some schools, irrespective of whether change was needed. The goalposts were moved but not in a fair way or even with any sense of direction. I agree change was necessary, few people would argue with that. However you manage change by assessing the problem based on the evidence, and then looking at the options, both in collaboration with the experts and professional, and agreeing a way forward with the understanding of all involved. That is basic good management practise, you don't just lean on people and suggest they jump, it is not surprising if some don't jump and some jump without even asking how high . The result was that many DCs were absolutely devastated when though they had worked hard they didn't achieve what they were predicted to achieve, until they realised it wasn't their performance that had fallen short, just that for some of them the goalpots changed. Universities are absolutely furious because how are we to use those results to assess candidates fairly? This wasn't just about c/ds either www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9497631/GCSE-results-university-places-at-risk-from-grades-drop.html i am a historian, don't even get me on the vehement disagreement of my academic communities with his approach to the History curriculum, but this has all been gone through on different threads

Underlying all this though is the blatant disregard for the group of young people whose prospects and confidence are being damaged by all this political meddling.

russians I am sorry If I have used Dyslexia as shorthand for SpLDs, I have tried to always use the term SpLDs because it covers Dyspraxia and all other learning difficulties, my Dd is actually in the process of being assessed for Dyspraxia as well. It's just my brain that is dyslexic and doesn't always type accurately grin

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 09-Aug-13 11:33:17

There hasn't been coursework for YEARS.

I see no reason to change my evaluation of your views as both bitter and incredibly out of date.

And I'm someone who prefers terminal exams, thinks modules are a flawed way of testing, hates controlled assessments and firmly believes that some of the subjects examined at GCSE have been very 'dumbed down' (although not all, and certainly not English which is far more searching now than in the old O level days).

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 11:15:52

- ok, well I guess we have been told different things. I couldnt find anything on line to suggest a cast iron expert consensus on this issue. They all seemed to confirm what Diner and my ex SENCO(s) was saying.

- alpha mothers- ha, a novel way to describe them. Yes tutoring is a massive London issue. I know about the whispering thing. I think some may have jumped onto certain wagons. Though some might have been deterred due to what they perceive to be negative connotations.

- Its difficult with your Primary School example where your kid failed their Dyslexia test due to the training and improvements you had provided. Thing is - what does a school do there? They were following their agreed policy... do they trust 'old scores', the parents insistence? I get you were penalised for success but how do you circumnavigate that? System wise?

- I don't think I could quite go along with your 'pandering' view but I did view with interest the English fiasco. I don't know if you may have a different perspective but to me, that scandal was a long tim becoming. Cheating was RIFE with GCSE coursework and I have long thought we needed a return to exams. I personally knew of illiterate students who got Bs or Cs in english when I was teaching and I am told universally by ex colleagues that standards had gotten laxer even since I was around. Im afraid Education always has been political and always will be. LIFE is political...

- ok

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 09-Aug-13 10:58:34

While I agree with most of what copthall says above I would just like to point out that the current exam system is rather more discrimatory against bright dyspraxics than bright dyslexics (I have both in my brood). I get really rather annoyed when people reduce the argument to dyslexics and extra time, or spelling and grammar.

Annecdotally, and I have no idea whether there is anything in this or not, there is allegedly a move to 'diagnose' low performing kids as having SpLDs whether or not they actually do, at the same time as these moves to de-categorise high performing kids already historically in the 'system' (or more accurately, on the records'). I do wonder whether in 5 years time, kids with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia or other SpLDs will find themselves slammed under a glass ceiling on diagnosis, or whether there will be no offically recognized people with these conditions who are not already low performing and the low performing-ness will be the determinant of diagnosis or not. sad

It's all a bit crap really. sad

Copthallresident Fri 09-Aug-13 10:35:21

ukjess firstly do not trust google, whatever you agenda you can find content on there to support it. I have had Breast Cancer, there is a very much visited site by a "respected" academic that says that if you have had Breast Cancer and you eat cheese sandwiches you will die www.cancersupportinternational.com/janeplant.com/ all looks very plausible but it is complete crap. I prefer to discuss the most recent peer reviewed scientific evidence with my Consultant, because most of what you find on google is out of date or dictated by an agenda. Maybe you share the widely held belief that Breast Cancer is something that women bring on themselves because they don't have babies early enough, drink, don't Breastfeeding etc. all of which you will find support for on google. It is rubbish, 95 % of breast cancer is the result of as yet unidentified factors probably a complex interaction of genes and environment. Most of the other 5% is explained by family history, a minuscule percentage is down to lifestyle factors and yet if you want to peddle the myth you will find plenty of support on google, and in the Daily Mail..... I digress but only because it is an area I am more of an expert in than mEthods of assessment and Dx for SpLDs. For my DD and many other DDs an Ed Psych assessment provided a lifeline, an explanation of why they were encountering so many difficulties in the school system when they clearly had more potential than they were being given a chance to realise, and help with coping strategies, so I will stick with the advice of those Ed Psychs, that the current tightened up regulations are based on bad science and discriminate against bright dyslexics whilst tipping the playing field unfairly in favour of the less bright.

Secondly like all the other parents with DCs with SpLDs I have not come across this supposed legion of bent Ed Psychs and SENCOs churning out fake assessments, that is the rationale for this incompetent response. For sure I live in an area full of alpha mothers, pushy parents, competitive parents, call them what you like , the extent of tutoring is scandalous, and borders on child abuse. Yes at 11 they all whispered behind their hands that the only way my DD had got into one of the most selective schools in London was because she was given the extra time in the entrance exam, because clearly she wasn't as clever as their DCs because she was so slow, and must therefore be stupid. But of the three DCs who had an assessment of a SpLD in DDs prep not one didn't very clearly display the characteristics of Dyslexia \Dyspraxia. I can assure you if there was a bandwagon of the type you describe those alpha mums would have found it and climbed on it.

Rather I have encountered both in the UK and overseas parents who battle the system to try and ensure their DCs get the support they need, and more often than not that means giving it themselves. They are there for DCs who are exhausted at the end of a school day from the effort of trying to learn through teaching methods that don't work for them and trying to cope with the psychological impact of teachers and peers who just think they can't be very clever. Even in my DDs first primary where her and her peers problems were recognised for what they were intervention meant many hours of my DD and I working our way through a specialist teaching scheme to drum in the phonic and writing skills. Of course then, having got her reading and writing up to average level, her next primary school would not accept a Dyslexic diagnosis because her spelling wasn't as bad as the other dyslexics in the school (who had not had the benefit of that intervention) . I still have to put in many hours facilitating (no excuses, not doing the work for her, just providing the right framework of support to enable her to organise herself ) my DD to achieve, and dealing with the emotional fallout of coping with her SpLDs.

I don't doubt that there are a small number of people who play the system, but this is just another example of Gove playing to people's prejudices and wanting to appear to be doing something that panders to them without any evidence of the extent of the problem and no sensible basis, indeed ignoring the professionals and the experts, for the action taken. And, as with the GCSE marking fiasco last year (indeed what isn't fully appreciated by the British public, the gcse and A level marking fiasco last year), and doubtless this year as well, it is our DCs that are suffering. Education should not be subject to political interference and I am disappointed that you and other education professionals don't see it for what it is. The heads of the most prestigious indies certainly do.

Oh and my info on teacher training comes from the Dyslexia charities who are campaigning for better training about SpLDs, and my neice's peers who trained in the last five years.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 10:16:03

Ahem battery not batty..... Last of the summer wine anyone?...

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 10:14:35

Yes, that's why I suggested a batty of tests rather than one type only.

Different tests have always given different rank orders.

To be fair it hasn't just been about average levels for decades.

When I left teaching we had lots of data on kids, ks2 sats, ks3 sats, nvr scores, vr scores, cats scores etc.

Now they have FFT too which incorporates a multitude of factors even including post code.

And in all my schools we had training on the latest Philosophy which included spike contrast and other inductors.

But when I was teaching I can't recall 2 schools that did the same thing either regarding setting, assessment or LD diagnosis or provision. Though all the schools were committed and diligent in their own way.

kitchendiner Fri 09-Aug-13 09:48:18

Personally speaking, KS2 SATS have not had value and have given a misleading picture of DS as have the CATS tests he was given at secondary. Neither test has been able to deal with "the spikes". They are both only testing certain things. I believe that individual tests are the most accurate but even then, there are differences between the various tests that can throw up different results.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 09:13:13

As to the other questions,

- pushy parents have remarkable persistence

- no, state and independent sectors both have their share

- I suspect it varies from school to school. I have worked with pushover HTs and SENOs and also skilful and resilient HTs and SENCOs.

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 09:04:38

Well I'm trying to knit together the things my friends have said, the experiences people have written here and my own experiences (which are a bit out of date as I'm retired).

Now if people are suggesting that the system is unfair because some schools are inept at recognising spikes or overt LD or because some parents are more resourceful than others then one way to ensure equity of entitlement is to have compulsory spike tests at say 5yo and 10yo.

I'm not one to wish to burn tax payers money but at the same time I'm not one averse to the deserved expense of a national scheme.

personally I thought sats at ks2 and ks3 had value for example.
and whilst I am ambivalent about Clegg's testing suggestion I can see pros and cons to it.

it seems to me a battery of different tests could be used at 5 and 10 to look for indicators and some internal assessment by teachers after suitable advice and prompts.

Now of course I'm fully aware that whatever is done will be unpopular in some charters, but that's the nature of my former profession.

kitchendiner Fri 09-Aug-13 06:59:09

IDK Exactly the same story with my DS.
ukjess I am interested in your idea of "standardised spike tests". Like IDK, my DS has a 93 percentile difference on some tests - it would be very dependent on what tests were given though and the water could again become muddy. There's a whole range of potential tests that could be given and this would be very costly and time consuming. For example, my DS might just be at the bottom of "average" in a spelling test but would drastically fail a phonics test. Individual IQ tests would take hours and cost a fortune whereas children with learning disabilities are highly likely to underachieve on a CATS test where you need to read the questions. If it's down to the parents to do all the running then there will be many without the resources or wherewithal. There will still be those that just meet the cut-off.
If the pushy parents are making up a learning disability then surely they can be sent packing? Are they operating more in the independent sector? Are schools pandering to them because they want better exam results?

ukjess Fri 09-Aug-13 02:18:35

Thats not quite what we are getting at.
The question was whether the criteria is fair and/or universally supported by parents and experts.

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