Discount Codes – the saga continues

For those of you who have read my previous post on the new discount codes, I have now had a response to my query from a statistician in the Department for Education. I will continue to pursue this until I have a response from an educationalist.

Their response to my concern and my response are below:

 

From: Attainment.STATISTICS@education.gsi.gov.uk [mailto:Attainment.STATISTICS@education.gsi.gov.uk]
Sent: 01 March 2013 08:50
To: (Me)
Cc: Attainment.STATISTICS@education.gsi.gov.uk
Subject: Discount Codes 2014

Dear (Me),

RE: Discount Codes 2014

Thank you for your email received on 22nd February regarding discount codes.

Historically, discounting has only been applied in the performance tables within qualification types or “families”.  For example, GCSEs and other qualification types have traditionally not discounted each other.  This is because in the past there has been little overlap in the subject content of qualifications from different families.  But over time discount families have become increasingly less meaningful as differences between the subject content of some GCSEs and other qualifications have diminished.  With the changes to the performance tables from 2014, the restricted number of qualifications that will count in the tables and each qualification only counting as “one”’, the Department has reviewed the discounting arrangements from 2014.

We have always made clear in any written information about discounting that discount codes may be updated at any time during the year without prior notice to improve the quality of discounting by ensuring that we continue to discount qualifications that cover the same material so that we aren’t crediting the same achievements more than once in the performance tables.  We do try not to change discount codes regularly once they are set.  The reason for changes at the moment is specifically to adjust to the changes to the Performance Tables from 2014.  This work is on-going.

A qualification is assigned a discount code on the basis of the subject area it covers.  The purpose of a discount code is to gather qualifications with similar content together and compare them to other qualifications with that code to ensure that where pupils take more than one qualification in the same subject area, the performance tables only give credit once for teaching a single course of study.  Some qualifications particularly in art and design and performing arts have until now had discount codes at the syllabus level (but only where AOs have provided syllabus information and results are provided at the syllabus level). 

With the help of subject experts, we have compared specifications of qualifications in the same or similar subject areas both across and within the old discounting families.  The advice we received was that these qualifications should discount one another due to the degree of shared and equivalent content and the similarity in the qualification objectives and assessment requirements.  The areas they explore are effectively permutations or varied interpretations of the same subject disciplines and vocational areas.  The current system allows a form of double counting which provides an incentive to pursue two similar qualifications in an inappropriately narrow field for educational development at this level.  The learning objectives and assessment requirements are generally adaptations of one another, designed to recognise the variations and options within the wider field of the performing arts but in most cases the knowledge base and the cognitive demands are very similar.  Even where the skills focus is clearly different the specifications still explore similar learning processes and often highly interchangeable knowledge and skills.   So new discount codes have been allocated at the qualification level which means that from 2014 only one GCSE (or GCE AS level) from one performing arts syllabus will count in the performance tables.

I hope that this provides the information that you require. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards,

xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

Dear (xxxxx xxxxxxxxx),

Thank you for your response. I appreciate your lengthy response, but unfortunately most of it is explaining what discount codes are. I already know what discount codes are. My specific concern was that decisions were being made which I believe are based upon inaccurate and ill-researched opinions.

The section of your response which seems to begin to deal with this is as below:

With the help of subject experts, we have compared specifications of qualifications in the same or similar subject areas both across and within the old discounting families.  The advice we received was that these qualifications should discount one another due to the degree of shared and equivalent content and the similarity in the qualification objectives and assessment requirements.  The areas they explore are effectively permutations or varied interpretations of the same subject disciplines and vocational areas.  The current system allows a form of double counting which provides an incentive to pursue two similar qualifications in an inappropriately narrow field for educational development at this level.  The learning objectives and assessment requirements are generally adaptations of one another, designed to recognise the variations and options within the wider field of the performing arts but in most cases the knowledge base and the cognitive demands are very similar.  Even where the skills focus is clearly different the specifications still explore similar learning processes and often highly interchangeable knowledge and skills. 

This section begins to address my concern, but I am very surprised at your reference to “subject experts” without going into further detail. It is clear that somewhere, the decision has been made that the performing arts “are effectively permutations or varied interpretations of the same subject disciplines”, but Biology and Human Biology are not. As a result, I would like to formally request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act, so that we are able to pursue this with our local MP and the Department of Education:

  • Please can you identify by name the subject experts you refer to who were consulted in relation to the application of discount codes to all subjects
  • Please can you provide the written recommendations from all the subject experts regarding all the new discount codes
  • Please can you provide the minutes of meetings where the decisions were made regarding the application of new discount codes and the final decisions in relation to the different recommendations from these subject experts

This will allow me to be able to pursue with those responsible further explanation, such as, for example, why two different Performing Arts disciplines are being treated as if they are the same, but two Design Technology subjects, which share the same specification heading, as is the case with “Design Technology: Food” and “Design Technology: Product Design”, are treated as separate.

Please would you acknowledge receipt of this request.

 

Yours,

Me

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3 thoughts on “Discount Codes – the saga continues

  1. Well done.

    That member of the DfE ought to work on sentence structure a bit, although at least you got lots of kisses. 😉

    Awaiting their response with interest.

  2. First of all, I have to say that you are doing a great job in chasing this! I really hope you can force them to explain how they arrived at these decisions.

    You may think I am very cynical and that I am jumping to conclusions, but I believe the reason they will not tell you who the experts are is because there are no experts involved in this decision. What Drama or Dance specialist is going to come out and say these two subjects cover the same skills? I believe Gove himself has just decided by himself.

    What?! I hear you cry – Gove, make a decision without any consultation? How could I suggest such a thing!….

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