The introduction of controlled assessment in place of coursework means that most GCSEs are, in effect, impossible for home learners and distance learners. Yet some distance learning organisations are continuing to sell GCSE courses despite this fact.
Students are being signed up to study for GCSE History, French, Geography and a wide variety of other titles. In a year’s time, they will be told “sorry, the exam board (AQA) is refusing to accept and mark your coursework”. Such students will be unable to take their exams and a year of study will be wasted.
Why is this happening? It is clear that controlled assessment is impossible for home learners and distance learners because such students are not directly supervised in the same room as their teachers while they research and write their coursework. This rule has been clear for almost two years.
AQA has told the distance learning providers concerned that there is no way their students can satisfy the controlled assessment rules. There is no discretion involved – AQA simply does not have the power to bend these rules. The providers understand this although, in a year’s time, they will pretend that they didn’t.
So why are they continuing to sell such GCSE courses? It is commercial desperation. The courses and the tuition are so poor that only a tiny fraction of the current intake will still be studying in a year’s time, certainly less than 10%. They calculate that they will refund the fees of the survivors in full and keep the fees of the other 90%+ who have fallen by the wayside. That way they will still make a handsome profit. There is a slight fear that one or two students may sue them for the hundreds of hours they have wasted in study, the lost opportunities, etc., but that is a risk they are prepared to take.
This unjustifiable commercial practice must not be allowed to continue. Such “rogue” organisations damage the good name of respectable and dedicated providers, all of whom stopped offering GCSEs (in subjects with controlled assessment) some time ago.
For distance learning, the only realistic option for most subjects (although there are a few exceptions, like Maths, which are assessed by exam only and can still be taken by distance learners) is IGCSE. IGCSE courses do not require coursework yet they carry just as much weight with colleges, universities and employers.
If you know anyone who is expecting to take GCSE exams as a private candidate in 2011, make sure that they are aware of the implications of controlled assessment. It is vital that students do not embark on a path that they can never complete.
If you come across an organisation which is continuing to enrol students for the new GCSEs with controlled assessment, make sure they know you know what they are doing and please do your best to stop them doing it.