Coursework at GCSE is axed to stop Net cheats


Last updated at 22:50 13 June 2007

GCSE students will face

tighter controls on coursework

and harder exam questions to

stop widespread cheating,

watchdogs said yesterday.

Instead of writing up coursework

at home, pupils will complete

projects in class under the

supervision of teachers.

The change, which will affect more

than 600,000 schoolchildren, will see

coursework scrapped in nine of the

most academic subjects, including

maths, English literature, history and

geography, the Qualifications and

Curriculum Authority revealed.

Exam papers will also be made more

demanding, after complaints that

‘predictable’ and ‘narrow’ questions

allowed pupils to ‘question-spot’ and

prepare answers beforehand.

The shake-up follows last year’s

damning report, which revealed the

coursework system was open to

widespread abuse. It found many pupils

were cutting and pasting answers

from the Internet, asking their

parents for help or using essay plans

prepared by teachers.

But the Tories claimed yesterday

that the clampdown does not go far

enough, after it emerged pupils will

still be able to research assignments

on the Internet with ‘low levels’ of


They will also be allowed to have

their notes alongside them when

they write final reports under timed

conditions in class.

David Willetts, the Shadow

Education Secretary, said: ‘It is largely a

renaming exercise. Use of the

Internet will still be permitted and work

can take place without teacher

supervision outside the classroom – it’s just

that it won’t be called coursework.

‘The right way forward is not to

rename coursework as the

Government is doing. Instead, what is

important is that work is properly

monitored to ensure it reflects the

student’s own efforts.’ However, the

QCA, which outlined the move,

insisted the changes will ensure

coursework is fair and reliable.

From September, maths coursework

will be scrapped entirely, with all marks

resting on written exams, while in most

other subjects – including English

literature, history and geography – it

will be replaced by ‘controlled

assessments’ from 2009. In practical

subjects such as music, art and design

technology, unsupervised coursework

will still be allowed.

But assignments will be set by exam

boards rather than teachers in order

for standards to be checked easily.

Teachers will continue to mark their

pupils’ work, but final results will

come under tighter scrutiny from

exam board moderators.

In other changes, pupils taking

GCSE history will have to spend at

least a quarter of their time making a

‘substantial and coherent’ study of

British history. It follows concerns

that pupils are ignorant of

great swathes of the country’s past,

including the Empire and its legacy.

The shake-up is an attempt by QCA

bosses to restore the credibility of

the 20-year-old qualification. Many

leading private schools have already

switched to the so- called

International GCSE in subjects such as

maths and science.

In a report last year, the QCA

admitted that GCSE coursework was

‘not fulfilling its stated purpose’ and

was even encouraging pupils to cheat

and plagiarise.

Dr Ken Boston, the QCA’s chief

executive, said the proposals to

overhaul GCSEs would ensure pupils can

be ‘assessed reliably, consistently and


He added: ‘Controlled assessments

will increase public confidence in the

GCSE and allow the integration of

new sources of data and information,

including the internet, under


‘The ability of GCSE to stretch and

challenge young people has been

reinforced by the proposals that

examinations must include extended

writing and more varied question types.'

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now