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Research Matters Special Issue 1

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  • ItemOpen AccessPublished version Peer-reviewed
    Research Matters Special Issue 1: Aspects of Writing 1980-2004
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2005-11-01) Massey, Alf; Elliott, Gill; Johnson, Nat
    This report describes an extension to the research published by Massey and Elliott (1996), which explored differences in written English in public examinations set in 1980, 1993 and 1994, by the inclusion of a further sample from an examination set in 2004. In 1980 the GCE examinations first introduced in 1951 were still in operation and 1993 and 1994 were, respectively, the final year the initial GCSE syllabuses introduced in 1988 were examined and the year of new examinations incorporating curricular changes reflecting the introduction of a National Curriculum for England. Hence these later years were landmarks in the evolution of what is taught and learned in our schools under the banner of English. The initial study sought to inform the debate on the longitudinal comparability of grading standards across this period by comparing features of writing produced by candidates awarded ostensibly similar grades in the different years. Whilst informative, the research could not reach definitive conclusions on this issue but it revealed substantial variations in aspects of writing reflecting changes in the curriculum and shifts in cultural values affecting how children wrote and what examiners valued. The evidence was displayed in a fashion inviting readers to apply their own value systems to questions of standards. Since 1994 social change has of course continued; arguably apace. The decade since then has seen a plethora of further policy changes introduced in an energetic political effort to drive up standards of achievement. Ten years on it seems timely to replicate the work to see if (and, if so, how) the process of change has continued. Because the 2004 evidence needs to be set in the same historical context this paper repeats many points made previously and we have borrowed freely from the earlier text where it seemed appropriate.