Ed Walsh

Controlled Assessments in the new GCSE

What’s High Control?

Anyone who’s been to one of the presentations on the new GCSE science courses by the awarding bodies (exam boards in old money) will probably have heard use of the term “high control” when it comes to controlled assessments. To be fair, this isn’t of their making but is a requirement of Ofqual.

The setting of the tasks will be high control, and so will pupils’ analysis of their findings. The awarding bodies will select the tasks (and change them every year) and when candidates write their conclusions they’ll do so “under formal supervision”.

Gone will be the practice with some of the current courses of schools being able to develop assignments out of topics that pupils took a particular interest in.

“Control” is a value laden term and may be counterposed to “freedom”. “High control” has connotations of dozens of candidates all doing the same unimaginative task in isolation, like an exam hall with goggles and pipettes.

This isn’t the entire story though….

Candidates also have to conduct research and this is under “limited control”; candidates’ work “may be informed by working with others” though their responses will be of an individual basis. Pupils will also be expected to devise their own plans for investigations (though they may not use these for gathering data).

These changes do not signal a green light for lots of recipe driven practical work, justified by a knowing “it’s good practice for the controlled assessments”. Pupils need to be able to carry out research themselves, collaborate with their peers and plan their investigations. If that’s a green light it’s one for a bit of independent learning.

Ed Walsh, Science Adviser with Cornwall Learning

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