Exam regulator Ofqual has confirmed a set of radical changes to GCSE examinations taken in England, which will alter what is studied as part of the qualification, and how. Head of Ofqual Glenys Stacey has described the changes as ‘The biggest change in a generation.’
Students due to take GCSE exams in 2017 will be the first to face the new changes
GCSE examinations will be studied for across the current two-year period, however all exams will be taken at the end of two-year study, abandoning the current modular system. It is speculated that coursework and controlled assessments will also be scrapped for most subjects.
The current GCSE grading system of A*-G is to be replaced with a numerical system, ranking achievement from one to nine – with nine being the highest grade. The lowest grade applicable will be U for unclassified.
The first phase of changes will be instigated with students due to take GCSE examinations in 2017, with English and maths being the first subjects affected. The two-tier paper option for students studying maths will remain in place, however will not do so for English – meaning one exam will be taken by students of all abilities. A further 20 GCSE subjects will face these changes for exams due to be taken in 2018.
The government has dropped plans to replace GCSEs for English Baccularate Certificates following concerns from the Commons Select Committee on education.
Education secretary Michael Gove has now twice had his plans for GCSE reform rejected, as he had originally intended for GCSEs to return to the era of CSE’s and O levels.
Gove described the implementation of the Ebacc as, ‘one reform too far’. Students were due to begin studying under the new qualifications in 2015.
The backtrack has been due to concerns raised by MPs, including deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, exam regulator Ofqual, teachers and students. One of the suggested reasons that Gove was prompted to make the decision to abandon the Ebacc was that his intention to have one exam board to act as provider for a particular subject might be in contention with EU regulations. Exam boards too had expressed their concerns with the new measures.
While GCSEs will remain, they will be subject to major reform: Gove is keen to reduce coursework and modules in order to rid students of ‘bite-size learning and spoon feeding’.
When questioned by the MP for Slough, Fiona Mactaggart, about the place of creative subjects as part of the reconstructed National Curriculum, Gove stated that: ‘Artistic and creative subjects are central to a broad education.’
Speaking in the House of Commons, the education secretary said: ‘Let’s work together, as we have so successfully on other issues, to ensure children get the high quality education they deserve.’