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Consultation shows clear mandate for change

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Education officials analysing responses to a consultation on 14-16 qualification reform have found a higher than expected degree of consensus. 

The Department of Education and Children received more than 800 submissions after inviting parents, students, staff, employers and the wider public to comment on whether it should break away from GCSEs, which are undergoing reform in England, to the Scottish examination system or the International GCSE. 

The consultation was launched on 2 April after public meetings paved the way for it in March. 

Outline analysis after last Friday’s deadline for submissions shows 82% of respondents would find a move to the IGCSE acceptable. 

The consultation sought to gather views on broad principles to inform the decision-making, explained Paul Craine, Co-ordinating Adviser for 11-19 Education with the DEC. 

A questionnaire invited respondents to agree or disagree with each of 10 statements on a five-point scale. There was an opportunity to add comments. 

Mr Craine said:

‘The questionnaire asked about three broad principles. Firstly, we wanted to know how comfortable people were with the possibility of breaking with the English exam system.  Secondly, we were keen to know if people believed that a school qualification system had to be controlled by a government (the IGCSE is owned by Cambridge University). Finally, we wanted feedback on whether people believe that qualifications should be based solely on examinations or whether a coursework element was desirable. 

‘We asked a further question about the acceptability of each of the alternatives under consideration and a final question about the possible impact of the qualification changes on recruitment.’ 

More than six in 10 responses came from parents and 25% from teachers, while others came from organisations such as Manx National Heritage and the Isle of Man College of Further and Higher Education. Detailed analysis of the questionnaires is now under way. 

On the question of whether qualifications should be controlled by a national government, more than 59% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they should be as politically independent of other governments as possible. Only 20% took the opposite stance.  

More than three quarters of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that qualifications should be based solely on end-of-course examinations. Fewer than 14% supported entirely exam-based assessment. 

The most unequivocal response was in relation to whether the Isle of Man should be prepared to follow qualifications other than those in England if there are clear advantages to students. More than 89% said the Isle of Man should be prepared to break with the English system if there is benefit in doing so. 

Mr Craine said:

‘We have a lot of work to do to fully analyse responses, especially in relation to the additional comments participants have offered. There is information from pupils to be placed alongside this and a series of meetings still to take place to focus on teachers’ views at individual subject level. There will be further discussions with secondary heads. However, the consultation indicates a higher degree of consensus than we had expected and adds weight to the possibility of breaking with the English system and adopting the International GCSE. 

‘Ultimately, a ministerial decision will determine the way forward. We hope to be able to provide schools with clear direction in July.’ 

Tim Crookall MHK, Minister for Education and Children, thanked those who took the time to respond, saying:

‘We have been really impressed, not only with the number of responses from those taking an interest in this important topic but the level of detail contained in replies. It’s obviously an issue people have thought about and care about and we are really grateful to them for taking time to assist us in deciding the way forward.’ 

Details of the consultation can be found by visiting and clicking on ‘consultations’.

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