The Education Secretary Michael Gove is planning to ditch GCSE exams, almost a quarter of a century after they were introduced, amid criticism over falling standards.
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The report in the Mail on Sunday, which is not being denied by the government, suggests that GCSEs will be replaced by a new, tougher exam which is being dubbed the "Gove level".
It is not expected that the new tests would be introduced until the next Parliament. This means the plans could be scrapped should Labour win the next general election.
The Department for Education told Channel 4 News it was not denying the reports but said an annoucement would be made in the next few days.
This notion of bringing back O-levels that would be untiered but accessible in some way shape or form to everyone is kind of risible. Dr Tina Isaacs
The most recent batch of criticism of the exams followed claims exam boards were told to ration the top marks to guard against accusations GCSEs are getting easier.
There were also complaints that thousands of pupils who sat English exams this year were unfairly downgraded to a D instead of a C.
Read more: How am I affected by the GCSE English row?
Dr Tina Isaacs formerly worked for the qualifications watchdog Ofqual but is now programme leader for the MA in educational assessment at the Institute of Education. She told Channel 4 News: "Mr Gove has to be given credit for trying to improve the system but it's a huge job both technically and philosophically."
It is understood that the new system will be single tier. Dr Isaacs questions how easy this idea will be to implement: "GCSEs were introduced in 1986 with the aim of being an exam that would be available to the whole cohort.
"So this notion of bringing back O-levels that would be untiered but accessible in some way shape or form to everyone is kind of risible. How do you reintroduce a qualification which was originally aimed at the top 20 per cent and make it available for everybody?
"That said, there's so much missing from this report. Until we see what Mr Gove's actually going to announce, it's almost impossible to see what he wants to do."
Single exam board
Newspaper reports say the new exams would replace the current system, which includes a large amount of continual assessment, with a traditional end of course exam possibly lasting three hours.
It appears that the new exams could also be set by a single exam board.
Over the summer, the cross party education select committee called for standardised national syllabuses to strip exam boards of their right to decide the content of examinations and remove "perverse incentives" as boards fought for market share.
And in April, Mr Gove announced he would be inviting the elite Russell Group universities to become more closely involved in setting A-levels amid concerns that currently they do not prepare pupils for advanced study at university.
03 July 2012
06 August 2012