Paper 1A caused upset and concern to many RE teachers. They felt that the questions were unfair. As someone who has lived and breathed the spec for the last 3 years, I felt it was important to go through it very carefully to see if there were any issues. I found two things that I wasn't quite sure about, and so contacted the board, who provided a response. I think it is very useful for teachers of this paper, and indeed perhaps all Edexcel RS papers, to read.
"Explain two ways the design of the Catholic Church reflects belief."
There is a significant difference between the Catholic Church and a Catholic church. The specification says:
4.1 - The common and divergent forms of architecture, design and decoration of Catholic churches [small 'c']: how they reflect belief, are used in, and contribute to, worship, including reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1179–1181.This question, especially for more able students could be confusing as they could be trying to consider the 'design' of institution of the Catholic Church (arguably something that has evolved rather than been designed).
The exam board response is this:
I am pleased that both responses will be accepted, and the process that goes on as part of the marking, but this is clearly a mistake in my mind. I am unaware or anywhere on the exam specification where it could possible ask about the design of the institution of the Church. The closest would be perhaps the magisterium spec point, but the question does not fit - and as I previously mentioned, has the Church been 'designed'?We take great care to ensure that our examination papers are error free and accessible to a wide range of learners across the ability range. I can confirm that your concerns have been reviewed and discussed by our senior examining committee who have provided feedback and reassurance.In regard to the concern escalated about Q4(c), the question reads "Explain two ways the design of the Catholic Church reflects belief.".The senior examining committee responsible for producing the 1RA0 1A question paper have confirmed that ‘Church’ in this question can be referred to in either way you have described. The mark scheme rewards responses approached explaining the ‘design’ of the building and will also reward student responses approached answering ‘design' of the institution of the Catholic Church.To provide further reassurance as part of our internal processes and procedures, mark schemes are scrutinised against actual student responses and updated prior to marking to ensure that the full range of actual acceptable student responses have been covered. The mark scheme for this paper will be published online on results day 22nd August 2019.
3 of the 4 Part D questions have just two bullet points - 'refer to Catholic teachings' and 'reach a justified conclusion'. This is what was expected, and due to them being AO2 question a necessity to look at divergent approaches is implied - and has been taught to students. If a third bullet point was included, it would be expected to be to look at different Christian points of view.
Question 2d ("Local churches should be responsible for evangelism.") contained an additional bullet point: 'refer to different Catholic points of view'. This was a surprise, given the above assumptions about divergence, and previous papers.
Does this suggest something fundamentally different about this question? Is it suggesting there is an 'official' divergence in teachings of the Church? (Something that has been problematic since the start of spec writing! Is there real divergence within the Catholic Church?)
I asked for clarity about why some questions included this bullet point, and others do not, when obviously it is implied that ALL questions need different Catholic points of view?
With regards to your concerns relating to Q02d, “Evaluate” type questions, please note that these questions will always include at least two bullet point instructions to aid responses. Depending on the question asked, bullet points are changed accordingly and the mark scheme will only allow credit for responses which are in line with specification content. The specification contains topic areas where there are points that are “divergent” views specifically mentioned for some topic areas. Questions asked on these topic areas where there are “divergent” views include an additional bullet point providing students with support to help them structure their response so that they can access the full range of marks available. The specification indicates, “divergent ways in which this is put into practice by the Church and individual Catholics, locally, national, and globally” (2.8). As such the divergence is whether it’s done on a local or global scale; Church or individual. The bullet point reminds students to ensure that their response includes this specific information.
Please note that the additional sample assessment material published online along with the 1RA0 1A paper set in 2018 list three bullet points similar to this series paper.However on inspection of the SAMs, 1d, 3d and 4d - they do all indeed contain 3 bullet points. The fundamental difference being, they are all:
- refer to Catholic teachings
- refer to different Christian points of view
- reach a justified conclusion.
This is the same as the specimen papers, and last years papers. Paper 1A has had 3 bullet points before, but NEVER a second bullet point saying "refer to different Catholic points of view", always just Christian. This is the first time it has appeared, and it remains confusing in my mind as to why it was included on this question, but never before.
Students will be fine. As we know, the brightest and most hardworking students will get the grades they deserve.
We know that the new GCSEs are tough, especially for our less able, or EAL. However, overall, I do think the new exams are better. Examination is always going to be difficult, and we feel a huge emotional attachment to the performance of our students. No one ever really LOVES the questions that come up! There will always be more tricky ones, and these are necessary to sort out the 9s. Yet last year the pass mark for a 1 was suitable so that the majority of hardworking students could achieve a GCSE - for some a 1 is a real achievement.
It is interesting that the Part As, which some spoke of being "qualifying" questions, are clearly not. In some cases the Part B and C questions were more straightforward. I don't have an issue with this as such, as long as my least able students to manage to get the grade they deserve. Interesting when working on my books, it was Part A questions that I found hardest to write - the others were far more simple.
Another issues that has come up in post-exam teacher discussions, is the extent to which teachers, and indeed students, followed the specification. Any textbook is one approach, not the only approach! The wording of many questions matched the spec very closely. It is for this reason, we included the wording of the spec in our student book. Read every word of it! Get your students to as well...
There has been much talk of swapping exam boards. I have spoken to around 20 teachers in the last week or so - and there has been suggestions of movement in all directions - from and TO Edexcel. I think my best advice would be to wait until you get your results - the exact wording of the exam questions is quickly forgotten if you get the grade that you deserve or need to! It is also worth considering the financial cost (replacement textbooks) and teacher time (re-planning, re-learning exam style) - is it worth it?
Finally, I am going to use this as a plug... our new workbooks are ready! Book 1 is already available, and Book 2 will arrive in September. I believe these could be real game changers, and despite being openly biased, I think for Catholic students, the Edexcel option could be the best due to the resources OUP have commissioned - especially for those students that find the GCSE tough. Check out this review of Book 1:
If you like what you read, order via your OUP rep (best for bulk) or see info here on my site:
I hope this has been helpful, informative and reassuring.
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