REC Board Response to Ofqual RS Assessment Consultation

Response from the REC Board to the DfE exam criteria consultation: 23 December 2014

GCSEs, A levels and AS qualifications in religious studies

Question 1

To what extent do you agree or disagree that GCSEs in religious studies should be assessed entirely by exam? Please give reasons for your answer. 

Disagree

On the one hand, the workload for teachers in assessing coursework is raised to high levels, but on the other hand, a balance of course work and examination is a fairer test of what pupils know, understand and can do. Both course and examination methods can produce unreliable results – a combination of the two is more likely to produce a more reliable result overall.

Question 2

To what extent do you agree or disagree that GCSEs in religious studies should not be tiered? Please give reasons for your answer

Agree

Previous papers have been constructed that make the subject accessible to the vast majority of students.

Question 3

To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed assessment objectives are appropriate for GCSEs in religious studies? Please give reasons for your answer. 

Strongly disagree

a) The objectives are divided into bullet points, but this is not consistent with other humanities assessment schemes – see, e.g., MFL, Geography, History – which have four AOs. We would recommend a similar approach for RS (see response to Question 5 below).

b) The objectives are not clearly enough linked to the subject criteria. Note that there should be a change in the subject criteria so that all students study, not just beliefs, teachings and sources, but beliefs, teachings and practices, in order to do justice to the range of religions and other worldviews studied.

Question 4

To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for GCSEs in religious studies? Please give reasons for your answer.

Neither agree nor disagree

Please see weightings given to suggested new Assessment Objectives in the response to Question 5.

Question 5

Do you have any further comments relating to the assessment of this subject?

Yes

We suggest the following Assessment Objectives, which allow for the different routes that should be permitted in the criteria: [Note: this requires a change in the criteria – see response 3b above].

AO1    Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of beliefs, teachings and practices of the religions and non-religious worldviews studied, including diversity within traditions, and where appropriate, comparisons across traditions. 35%

AO2    Identify and understand the impact of religious and non-religious beliefs, teachings and practices on individuals, communities and societies. 35%

AO3    Appreciate, analyse and evaluate differing interpretations of questions and issues in religions and non-religious worldviews 15%

AO4    Demonstrate the use of sources, evidence and critical thinking in constructing well-informed and balanced arguments in the context of the religions and non-religious worldviews studied. 15%

 

Question 6

To what extent do you agree or disagree that AS qualifications in religious studies should be assessed entirely by exam? Please give reasons for your answer.

Disagree.

On the one hand, the workload for teachers in assessing coursework is raised to high levels, but on the other hand, a balance of course work and examination is a fairer test of what pupils know, understand and can do. Both course and examination methods can produce unreliable results – a combination of the two is more likely to produce a more reliable result overall.

Question 7

To what extent do you agree or disagree that A levels in religious studies should be assessed entirely by exam? Please give reasons for your answer.

Disagree.

As above in question 6

Question 8

To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed assessment objectives are appropriate for A levels and AS qualifications in religious studies? Please give reasons for your answer

Agree

Question 9

To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for AS qualifications in religious studies? Please give reasons for your answer

Agree

Question 10

To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for A levels in religious studies? Please give reasons for your answer

Agree

Question 11

Do you have any further comments relating to the assessment of this subject?

No

Equality impact

Question 12

We have not identified any ways in which the proposed requirements for reformed GCSEs, A levels and AS qualifications in religious studies would impact (positively or negatively) on persons who share a protected characteristic. Are there any potential impacts we have not identified? If so, what are they?

Yes.

There is a risk of discriminating unfairly against young people who are of no religious belief and wish to include that perspective in their responses.  Students should be able to learn about non religious worldviews as well as religious ones on grounds of educational relevance (i.e. the large numbers of people in Britain today who describe themselves as being of no religious belief and whose views matter in any discussion of religious and other beliefs).

Question 13

Are there any additional steps we could take to mitigate any negative impact resulting from these proposals on persons who share a protected characteristic? If so, please comment on the additional steps we could take to mitigate negative impacts.

Yes

This could be achieved by changing the wording of the Assessment Objectives to our suggested wording in Q5 above.

As far as pupils from 'minority' religious traditions are concerned, specific reference to these could be written into the content in the thematic part of the criteria.

Question 14

Have you any other comments on the impacts of the proposals on persons who share a protected characteristic?

No