The examination board for GCSE (9-1) Astronomy is Edexcel.
Upon discussing centre requirements on the observation tasks and the declaration form we have been asked to put this together for centres. In doing so, we have written is as guidance only not just for those who might work with us, but with others.
Disclaimer: As a training provider, we are ourselves NOT an exam centre, neither do we have any direct affiliation to Edexcel the examining board. For prospective students considering joining us, we do not accept liability for an exam centre being unable to accept our students for whatever reason.
Exam Centres and the GCSE (9-1) Astronomy
As with any formal examination, the GCSE (9-1) Astronomy requires being sat at an exam centre. The course is 100% waited by 2 exams.
However there seems one area of confusion like in the Observational Task’s. This is required in both years to complete both an unaided (without a telescope) and an aided (with a telescope) task. Although the observations can be made WITHOUT supervision, it is required that the student will gather sufficient proof of them having completed these. This can be in the form of
Date and Time observations were made
Picture of setup (if applicable)
Seeing conditions at the time of observations
Hindering conditions (light pollution, cloud)
Images or sketches made.
The tutor is then required to sign these off (on the declaration form) as authentic and collected in accordance with Edexcels guidlines.
The problem then can come for the exam centre, as they too are required to sign off this declaration form. It is simply a rubber stamping as the tutor has already confirmed everything. However, in many cases, centres are often unwilling to sign as they do not know the student (if external) or the conditions they made the observations in. The reluctance to sign the declaration is due to the danger of comeback, especially if something went wrong in the exam, wrong observations made or in the wrong manner making it impossible for the student to answer correctly. So it is understandable.
Edexcel, as i am informed, cannot mandate any centre to accept external students or sign the declaration form.
So guidelines offered by Edexcel are
For centre to keep in communication with the training provider (in our case, us)
For the training provider to keep the centre updated with observations and to send proof in line with the information above. This should then be enough to satisfy both tutor, the academy, and indeed the exam centre that the observations have been made.
Speaking as an amateur astronomer myself, it is obviously neither feasible or practical to supervise observations, unless at a star party. However, with reasonable proof such as that outlined above, it becomes very difficult indeed to plagiarise. However, if a student claims to observe the gibbous moon on the day of a crescent then this will raise concerns.
As a learning provider, our tutors are all professional teachers who would insist on seeing proof before signing off the declaration form.
It should be noted that one area where a student might not have completed the work as stated (either at all or properly) is demonstrated in the exam, where they would not be able to answer the exam questions fully, if at all.
As a centre reading this with a view of considering to either work with us or another provider, please be mindful that the declaration is a “rubber stamp” only. The tutor will have spent a lot of time working with the student on the observations. We also do not publish them, making it impossible for others to copy.
However, please only agree to work with is, if you have no problem signing off the declaration or can propose a workable solution to enable you to do so.
Parents and students please be aware, you cannot sit the exam without the declaration form being signed by BOTH parties, so it is important before choosing a centre for GCSE (9-1) Astronomy (or any subject), to check they can before committing. Do not assume the examination officer will be aware of all the processes here either. It is for you to be aware and advise them. Assume nothing.
A copy of the Observational Statement can be found in the course specification you can download here you will find it on page 61.
Student Observational Tasks and Declaration Student guidelines for Observed Tasks
Hope this helps all