AQA’s new A Levels go live

AQA publishes new A Level specifications for 2008

In case you haven’t spotted this, the new AQA draft specifications for 2008 are now on the AQA site. There are also specimen question papers and mark schemes to give you an idea of what the new papers might look like. I’m probably biased: I think the reading lists for AQA Literature A look really interesting, both for the set texts and the coursework lists – the sort of reading that should benefit anyone thinking of studying English after A Levels as well as being an enjoyable and coherent course. Teachers can ask for approval for other texts, but they’ll need to fit into the theme chosen. Outside the ‘set’ texts, reading is likely to be more selective, perhaps by extracts and overview rather than the line-by-line approach used in the past.

But take a look for yourselves and post a comment here. AQA is running training sessions on these new course this term and next.

No news yet from Edexcel, it seems – they must be keeping their powder dry…

Cut the cruft

Crud, yes, but ‘cruft’? Another word that was new to me this week

Crud, yes, but ‘cruft’? Another word that was new to me this week, found in The Guardian: ‘Fill databases of valuable customer information with rubbish, to let the valuable names hide among the cruft.’ My big Collins dictionary (old-tech, paper and a weight), the British National Corpus and Cobuild all drew a blank (apart from the inevitable dog show), but Webcorp led first to a site which, in February 2007, still felt it needed to use quotation marks and explain the word in brackets as ‘unnecessary code’. Then the links led to the ever-useful Wikipedia, where we learn: ‘In hacker jargon, cruft describes areas of something which are badly designed, poorly implemented or redundant’. There’s an interesting suggested etymology from Harvard University’s Cruft Laboratory: ‘if the place filled with useless machinery is called Cruft Hall, the machinery itself must be cruft’. The links goes on, as the page reminds me of the term backronym – something for another time?

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Can we affordance more new words like this?

One of the features of any gathering of professionals is the way they talk in their own language – jargon, in other words. I see that the ATL Conference featured a moan about ‘Edu-babble’ yesterday. At last weekend’s NATE Conference there was some grumbling about ‘affordance’. It doesn’t even feature in the free online dictionaries I use most, such as Chambers and Mirriam-Webster. The ever-useful Wikipedia tells me that ‘an Affordance is an action that an individual can potentially perform in their environment’ and that it dates from 1977.

Do we real need this word? What’s wrong with ‘potential’?

Re-examining the examination: the new A Levels

New AS and A Level English specifications trickle, leak or spill into the public domain

Interesting times lie ahead as the new AS and A Level specifications spill into the public domain. I learnt at NATE Conference at the weekend that OCR put its new specifications on their website on Friday.

I’ve had a quick look at the English Literature specs. The OCR summary has a rather disturbing sick rose lying on a book, not sure what to make of that other than something about the death of the author/text/canon/subject…. My impression is that the OCR A2 has a fairly heavy pre-1800 feel, though I may be misreading this, so take a look for yourself if you want.

The WJEC has also put its new course on the web – it has some apparent similarities to OCR, with much longer coursework for AS, at least, with, like OCR, a quite prescribed list of texts in some of the units, and a pre-1800 bias to the A2 course. But again, see for yourself.

I understood from the AQA representative on Saturday that AQA‘s offerings would be up today, Tuesday, though at present (10.00pm), all the English specifications are still ‘coming soon’. Media and sociology are already there!