The report, ‘Embedding statistics at A level’ (PDF), investigates the increased statistical requirements that are now present in six of the A levels that are being reformed: biology, business, chemistry, geography, psychology and sociology. It looks at the appropriateness of statistics in the assessment of these A level courses, as well as coherence of statistical assessment within and between the six subjects.
The report also considers how these new statistical elements could build on skills attained in GCSE Mathematics and how they might link with statistical content in the new Core Maths qualifications currently being piloted in schools and colleges.
A series of recommendations are made in the report, which expand on the following points:
- In addition to the subject specifications, the Department for Education (DfE) should provide additional guidance on the new mathematical and statistical requirements of A level subjects.
- Awarding organisations should be required to establish robust quality assurance processes for the mathematical and statistical strands of live papers.
- The DfE should undertake or commission a formal review of the implementation of the recently reformed A levels. This should scrutinise the statistical (and mathematical) elements of exam papers within and between subjects to investigate coherence.
- Ofqual should ensure that future accreditation panels, and any review processes, include subject specialists with sufficient statistical expertise.
- Given the increased emphasis on statistical elements in examinations, Ofqual and the awarding organisations should research the effectiveness of different question styles and modes of assessment, eg incorporating the use of technology, and opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning.
- The professional development of teachers needs to be understood and addressed, to ensure that teachers can address statistical requirements across subjects. The DfE, learned societies, professional bodies and subject associations, and schools and colleges are all identified as having a role in addressing this.
Finally, the report identifies a number of areas in which more research would be useful. It suggests that a broader analysis of statistical content in GCSEs, Core Maths and A levels would help understand how best to embed mathematical content in qualifications studied between the ages of 14 and 19. It also says that a study monitoring the impact of Core Maths on the learning, teaching and assessment of statistics in non-mathematics A levels would be 'valuable'.
A third piece of research, the report suggests, could investigate learners’ 'experiences of, and attitudes to, learning statistics’, including what a student's experience of statistics might look like in the variety of possible routes taken through school.