Y106 Early Tudors exam paper this year


Dear Sir/Madame,


In choosing an examination board, teachers look for flexibility, interests that match their and their student’s enthusiasms, reliability and fairness. I chose OCR History A Level on the basis that it promised the first two, which is why I moved from Pearson-Edexcel after nearly twenty years of following their courses, and naturally expected the latter two qualities to be a given. I am satisfied with the option possibilities of the various papers you offer, and my students and I gain much from the style and nature of the individual projects the board embraces. However, it would not be right or just too future students to pursue any examination board that looked to catch students out with testing ‘dark corners of the course’ or omitting vast and central aspects of the period under investigation.


How is it possible that the examiners who set Y106/01 for the 13 June 2018 were permitted to set a paper that was likely to cause the maximum of anxiety and despair? Firstly, I have no quibble with the document question worth 30 marks, as this was on a central topic; however the essay section limited to a choice of two was cruel and thoughtless. If the essay section allowed students to choose from 3 or 4 possibilities, then even if all 4 were narrow and niche, or appeared to be so, the roulette wheel of revision would give most a reasonable chance. Nevertheless, the students only have a choice of two essays, and so it is incumbent upon the examiners to produce questions that allow access and encourage a display of technique and knowledge rather than attempt to expose weakness and trip up candidates by looking for the narrow and the niche.


The questions on the paper, appeared to look at only 11 of the 62 years surveyed by the course requiring an essay answer; though the essay on foreign policy had a wider scope if students had time to think. Entirely cut from this year’s examination was the reign of Henry VII, Wolsey’s domestic and foreign policies from 1515-1529, and the entirety of the 1530s so vital to the transformation of England. Now, it is possible to see why the Reformation could not be tested, as this would offer some overlap in various ways with the document question; however, this does not excuse the gutting of the rest of the period. If one looks at the syllabus outline given in the specification p. 20, the topics selected by you occupied at best 6 out the 19 lines employed to steer teachers and students toward the right content areas; indeed, the question on Wolsey is merely suggested on less than 3 lines, and that is me being generous, as actually it is covered by but a few words with the question limited to 1514:


‘Henry’s VIII’s personality: his role in government to 1529; aims and policies in foreign affairs to 1529, Wolsey’s role in foreign affairs (only till 1514); Wolsey’s administration of government, finances, law and social reforms (only till 1514)…’*


*In blocked red is indicated that 15 years needs to be deducted from the picture, and in red type is indicated that there are only 4 years to draw examples from.


Question 3 was cruel in its slant: Assess the reasons why England was at war with France and Scotland in the 1540s. Why could not the question have said: ‘Assess the reasons why England was at war with France and Scotland between 1509-1547.’? You see, many students with only 36 minutes to write an essay, a timing advised by minutes per mark with the document worth 30 marks and hence 54 minutes of the time or thereabouts, would panic and believe that only a detailed knowledge of the 1540s wars was required. How unkind and unworthy a mission, to panic and upset.


Let us take some time to reflect on last year’s paper, June 2017. Here you had questions assessing Henry VII and Henry VIII, which was fair and reasonable. The areas tested encompassed 1 entire section out of 4, 8 lines of the 19 line syllabus, and surveyed 43/62 years – all entirely fair and reasonable. This paper almost entirely mirrored the Specimen Paper, which also asked questions about Henry VII and Henry VIII; it too asked a question encompassing 1 entire section out of 4; it also occupied around 7-8 lines of 19 line syllabus; and, moreover, it surveyed around 30/62 years. Both papers, Specimen and 2017 also asked very direct questions with much to say for all students, whether strong or weak. Thus, in conclusion, the 2018 paper was out of kilter with and not in the same spirit as past examples, and is likely to catch out the weaker students and frustrate every other sort of candidate who worked hard.


So, what I require from the board is some explanation as to their thinking in transforming the paper into one that is terribly mean spirited from one that was fair and reasonable. I expect to be sent essay questions for Y101-Y113 2018 to see if those doing Y106 were particularly disadvantaged by the style of questions they faced, and I will need statistical results for each Y101-113 paper, notably for the essays, to judge whether the marks for Y106 were particularly low. Having taught most of the subjects covered by Y101-113 in the 33 years I have been in the profession, I will be able to make a sensible evaluation of whether parity of assessment and/or marking took place.


My final thought is for the students who are less able, for whom the examination must have been a nightmare, and, of course, for my students who were reduced to tears imagining their predicted grades, from C-A* disappearing.


I will send a copy to the GSA, and encourage other teachers of the same option to enter their formal protest. If you want to understand the derision you caused you might look at the student response on Twitter that specifically cited this paper; the oxygen of publicity is not always a fine thing.








Dr Stewart Faulkes

Princess Helena College, 17435