The first plenary is a presentation from the three English exam boards on their new GCSEs.
Firstly is Mike Charman from AQA. He stresses the importance of teachers in the development of the specification. AQA has developed a single specification with two papers, making them unique among the boards. The first component, understanding the modern world, includes the period study and the wider world depth study. The second component is focused on British history, with a thematic study and a British depth study. Thee are two new thematic units: power and the people, and migration, empires and people. The historic environment study is located within the depth study. The two papers are both an hour and 45 minutes. Resources are being produced by Hodder and OUP. Schemes of work, lesson plans, reading lists and SAMs will all be available from the board.
Next is Angela Leonard from Edexcel. They too have gone for one spec with no forbidden combinations, borne out of consultation with teachers. Edexcel however offers three exams; the four units cover thematic, pre-modern British, period and modern depth studies. The thematic studies have the same focus as the current offering, though with some adjustments to content. Historic environment is nested within the thematic studies: Whitechapel, Western front surgery and London in WW2. Topic booklets, course planners and additional SAMs will be available from Pearson with additional publishing of resources from Hodder, Pearson and the Zigzag website.
Ben Walsh speaks next about OCR A: Explaining the Modern World. OCR are unique on offering two different specs. He thinks the modern world needs explaining and difficult issues need to be addressed to ensure our next generation understand their context. He talks through the assessment objectives, advising caution on the interpretations focus particularly. He explains that the OCR A is aimed at embracing the change and future-proofing the spec. More information on the options available at the OCR A workshop taking place during the conference.
Finally, Jamie speaks about OCR B, the SHP spec. Designed around SHP principles, the aim was to provide a spec that is rich and diverse. One fifth of the marks are available for each one of the units: British thematic and depth, World period and depth and History around us. Two thematics remain the same but slimmer and more streamlined: a public health focus for medicine, for example. Strong encouragement to visit a historic environment for the third unit. Jamie stresses the focus on interplay of factors in the depth studies, unfolding narrative in the period studies. Jamie’s comments on assessment include an assurance that any relevant response is rewardable. Three exam papers cover the five aspects.