'The Campaign to Improve AQA Philosophy' Petition sign now

An appeal to the Director General and Executive Board of AQA on behalf of A-level Philosophy teachers

To the Director General and Executive Board of AQA,

We, the undersigned, bring to your attention an issue of great concern for Philosophy teachers and the wider civil community. At present, many teachers delivering AQAs Philosophy syllabus are frequently meeting with the following inherent problems:

(i) Inadequate support materials for teachers and students, this includes the AQA endorsed textbook, published by Nelson Thornes, which lacks the quality found in resources produced by AQA for other subjects.

(ii) Specimen questions and mark schemes are too few and too limited in their scope to help teachers and students to effectively prepare for examination.

(iii) Specifications, specimen papers, exam questions, mark schemes and officially endorsed AQA text books for AS and A2 Philosophy fail to correlate with each other.

(iv) When engaged at support meetings there is often uncertainty amongst AQA representatives about the requirements of the AS and A2 Philosophy specifications and where responsibility lies for the related materials produced and endorsed by AQA.

(v) Inconsistencies and a lack of transparency for examination marking
Instances of AQA failing to respond to correspondence sent by teachers or responding in an unsatisfactory way in relation to a number of issues, many of which are identified in the above (i v)

As a result of these problems, the following adverse affects have been identified by numerous teachers across the country:

1. When considering how best to effectively prepare students for examination many teachers report a lack of confidence in the content materials and guidance documents that are provided by AQA (see, i - vi above).

2. Reports consistently indicate that there is a widespread lack of student confidence in the Philosophy AS and A2 courses due to difficulty in understanding prescribed content and confusion over the requirements of the course (i - iii).

3. Students are currently being put off from choosing A-Level Philosophy due to the perceived difficulty of the course and the impact this can have on achieving the required grades that ensure academic and/or career progression; this has served to excluded students from less advantaged academic backgrounds and high performing students not wishing to jeopardise their planned progression route (i - iii and v).

4. Teachers report being in the uncomfortable position of discouraging students from purchasing the AQA-endorsed text book and steering students away from what are poorly put together key sections of the AQA website, for fear that such things will instil confusion and reduced confidence. (i and iii)

5. Students who clearly have the ability to demonstrate excellent subject knowledge and philosophical skills are being caught off-guard in exams by unreasonable questions or dubious textbook content. (i iv)

6. Some teachers are warning lower ability students away from Philosophy courses or from continuing from AS to A2 due to the lack of quality supporting resources, frequently recommending other courses instead. (i and iii)

7. Many teachers also note that lower ability students, who do choose Philosophy, are at an unfair disadvantage compared with those studying other subjects, due to the lack of quality supporting resources. (i and iii)

8. Students with English as a second or third language and others with limited linguistic capital are being unfairly disadvantaged due to the unnecessary and obfuscating nature of the language employed in supporting materials. (i)

9. Some centres are now opting to end A-Level Philosophy provision as a consequence. (i-vi)

10. Some centres are considering moving over to Religious Studies with exam boards such as OCR and Edexcel(covering Philosophy and ethics) as a more reliable and manageable alternative to AQA philosophy. (i-vi)

11. Teachers report a sense of professional obligation forcing them, beyond reasonable expectations, into a situation whereby great efforts are being exerted to create resources that overcome the numerous shortcomings in the AS and A2 materials. (i - iii)

12. Inconsistent examination results are diminishing teacher confidence and leading to much time, energy and money being spent on requesting scripts and remarks. (v)

13. The inherent problems are limiting the expansion and opportunities for successful engagement with A-Level Philosophy as access to the subject is being significantly constricted (i-vi)

14. A disservice is being done to University Philosophy departments, in terms of preparation for undergraduate study in Philosophy, and a limitation on applications. Many teachers report that students are less inclined to continue with Philosophy (i-vi)

15. The reputation and standing of Philosophy at A-Level is being diminished and so, opportunities for Philosophy to empower and enrich the lives of students as a Humanities subject are being severely damaged. (i-vi)

Many teachers have written letters to AQA and Ofqual identifying these concerns and these same letters have requested that AQA commit themselves to making essential changes to the syllabus and associated examination materials as a matter of urgency. A further request has been that AQA exert all reasonable manner of influence upon their publishing partner, Nelson Thornes, to do the same. We make these claims based on the e-mail responses from over fifty Philosophy teachers across the UK, many of which can be read at the Facebook campaign site (see, http://www.facebook.com/groups/edit.php?edit_members=&gid=131002956927140&tab=requested#!/group.php?gid=131002956927140), which has recently emerged, indicating the depth to which concern now runs amongst teaching professionals regarding the above. However, we also make our appeal based on numerous conversations that have taken place and comments of dissatisfaction that have been raised at AQA support meetings and at other subject specific conferences held for AS and A2 Philosophy teachers.

It is also clear from the above (i-vi and 1-15) that AQA are not observing their publicised commitment to the use of Plain English; nor are they observing their own bench marks for Quality Management, Equal Opportunities and Child protection/Safeguarding (see, http://web.aqa.org.uk/over/statements.php ). It is also argued that students of Philosophy are being unfairly and unnecessarily disadvantaged when the provision for Philosophy is compared with the standards for provision being met by AQA in other subjects.

We now request that the AQA Director General and Executive Board officially acknowledge our concerns as legitimate and commit to taking the following action:

(a) A reworking of the specification and examination materials to ensure clarity, coherence, and fairness.

(b) A withdrawal of AQA endorsement for the current Nelson Thornes AS and A2 Philosophy text books.

(c) The commissioning of new AQA endorsed AS and A2 Philosophy text books, which are fit for purpose, reflecting the demands of the specification in a manner which avoids unnecessarily obfuscating otherwise accessible material.

(d) All future AS and A2 Philosophy examination questions and mark schemes to be explicitly tied to the wording of the specification and articulated as clearly as possible.

(e) A review of examiner training and recruitment to ensure consistency in quality of marking papers.

(f) That items a, c, d and e (above) are carried out with due care and consideration in relation to the needs of teachers who may be newly qualified, teachers who may be required to teach AS or A2 Philosophy but do not have a background in Philosophy and the range of needs that learners have, some of whom may be linguistically disadvantaged.

(g) That teachers from a range of backgrounds will be encouraged and recruited in order to utilise their breadth of experience in the completion of a, c, d and e; but also in the continuous development of AQA Philosophy provision.

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Goal reached !
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Latest Signatures

  • 22 December 2015250. Piers S
  • 10 December 2015249. J S
    I wholeheartedly endorse most of the listed in this petition, especially relating to poor and inconsistent examiner marking on some papers, notably the old PLY1 and PLY 5 units. In addition, I strongly echo the concerns raised about inappropriate questio
  • 10 December 2015248. Patrick F
    I am Head of RE and Philosophy at the Cardinal Vaughan School and we had an enormous problem last year with our AS group which really shocked me. I hope that AQA can sort this out since they are otherwise a very good examination board.
  • 02 December 2015247. Oli B
    Only the teachers taught me philosophy, AQA's textbook for A2 was shocking and I thank God that I have such good philosophy teachers, who are willing to make the effort to 'translate/convert' the waffle on the pages.
  • 12 November 2015246. Benjamin W
    My school will no longer offer Philosophy, as it is seen as too hard. Attempts to enlist the support of AQA have met with many of the issues identifed by this petition.
  • 01 November 2015245. Dan D
    I support this petition
  • 21 October 2015244. Yujin N
    I support this petition
  • 28 August 2015243. Nick C
    I support this petition
  • 26 August 2015242. Guy E
    I support this petition
  • 23 August 2015241. Maria D
    I support this petition
  • 14 August 2015240. Marianne T
    I support this petition
  • 04 August 2015239. Tricia V
    I support this petition
  • 10 July 2015238. David W
    I support this petition
  • 10 June 2015237. Malcolm M
    I support this petition
  • 04 June 2015236. Mark M
    I support this petition
  • 23 May 2015235. Miranda B
    I support this petition
  • 21 April 2015234. Glenn S
    I support this petition
  • 28 March 2015233. Sean L
    Other humanities subjects have the reputation that mediocre students can get good grades;Philosophy has the reputation that good students get mediocre grades.This is damaging the appeal of the subject. Something must be done to stop bright students opting
  • 16 March 2015232. Tamsin G
    Teacher of Philosophy
  • 09 March 2015231. Robin D
    My main concern is with the poor quality of the AQA endorsed textbook.
  • 02 March 2015230. Charlotte A
  • 01 March 2015229. Robert J
    I support this petition
  • 19 February 2015228. Dr Karenf
    I support this petition
  • 14 February 2015227. Mark Y
    The spec for the unit 3 topics in particular is way too vague; in moral philosophy, for example, the spec throws in "Kants attempt to provide a rational grounding for a deontological ethics", as just part of one bullet point. I could spend weeks on this a
  • 08 January 2015226. Andrea L
    I support this petition
  • 08 January 2015225. Dean G
    I support this petition
  • 16 December 2014224. Rahough Pace
    Wholly necessary and representative.

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Jaime BlackwellBy:
Petition target:
AQA Director General and Executive Board


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