GCSE reform spells change for curriculum managers
The English Baccalaureate Certificates – which education secretary Michael Gove intends to introduce in schools in 2015 for English, maths and science, with the first of the new-style exams being sat in 2017 – have huge implications for curriculum managers, as they attempt to accommodate yet another new style of working. New qualifications for history, geography and languages will follow.
'An end to grade inflation’
More rigorous assessment and an end to ‘grade inflation’ are the key reasons for this change. In each subject area only one awarding body will in future provide the exams, to put a stop to current practice where exam boards ‘dumb down’ to attract more schools, ‘in a corrupt effort to massage up pass rates’, according to Mr Gove. Ofqual will recommend which exam board to use in each case, but the education secretary will have the final say, with the first of these being appointed by the end of next year.
The new qualifications will be assessed by end-of-course exams only – coursework and modules in existing GCSEs ‘undermined the credibiltiy of exams’, said Mr Gove. This inflation of results has not been matched ‘by the same level of improvements in learning’, he added. But many will question how a return to exam-only assessment will improve matters, possibly encouraging rote learning by many pupils, with those with exam nerves and poorer cramming ability being at an unfair disadvantage. For those who have difficulty with exams, Mr Gove has said he expects schools to provide a detailed record of their achievement to help them make subsequent progress and secure Ebac certificates by age 17 to 18.
Plans to replace all GCSEs
Mr Gove’s previous talks of a return to a two-tier system similar to the old O-levels and CSEs were seemingly overturned by his coalition partner Nick Clegg. But many may wonder whether the timing of the introduction of the new exams, coming as they will in a new term of government, is a backhanded way to placate Lib-Dem partners for now with a view to implementing more ‘Tory’ plans at a later date.
Mr Gove has also said he expects Ofqual to consider using this new-style of qualification as a template to ‘replace the entire suite of GCSEs’.
The plans are now out for consultation, which closes on 10 December. Many in education have already expressed concern that their views are only being sought on a government-created qualifications template, rather than being able to have their say on what any GCSE replacement should look like from scratch. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg criticised Mr Gove for ‘drawing up his plans in secret’, while NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said that this summer’s English GCSE marks fiasco had offered a ‘golden opportunity for the Secretary of State to press ahead with his claims that GCSEs are no longer robust or fit for purpose’.