Coursework assessment to end in GCSE shake-up

A major shake-up of GCSEs to be unveiled this week means the end of coursework and a return to the traditional end-of-year exam. Education Secretary Michael Gove is planning to ditch the modular exam system, under which coursework done during the two-year study period counts towards the overall grade. Instead, he wants to see a return to the traditional O-level approach, with a pupil's results being determined purely by their final exam.

The move will be included in a White Paper on Wednesday, Mr Gove said, and told the BBC he believed that at the end of the course "students should be examined on all of what they have learnt at the same time". The White Paper will also unveil plans for a reform of A-levels, with universities being given more of a say in the setting of papers, to give pupils a chance to answer more taxing questions.

There has been a drift away from GCSE and A-levels by many of the country's leading independent schools, including Winchester, Westminster and St Paul's. They believe the international GCSE, devised along the lines of the old O-level and still used by many Commonwealth countries, is a better preparation for A-level study and stretches pupils more. At A-level, some have opted for the new Cambridge Pre-U exam, which again focuses on the end-of-year exam.

The plan was attacked yesterday by former education secretary Ed Balls, who said it smacked of a "North Korean" approach to education, with Whitehall laying down a diktat as to how exams should be conducted in schools, rather than giving them and the exam boards more freedom.

The move may also improve the performance of boys in exams, leading academics say. In the past two decades, with GCSEs adopting an approach based on coursework, the performance of girls has soared ahead of boys in almost every subject.

Teachers' leaders are likely to argue that in some subjects it makes more sense to adopt a more flexible approach to determining grades. And a major review of secondary education calls for children to sit their GCSEs at the age of 14 rather than 16. Their results could then pave the way for a new style of selection at 14, determining whether they pursue an academic or more vocational career.

The report, for the education charity the Sutton Trust, says the "rite of passage" GCSE exam sat at 16 has had its day, now that growing numbers of young people are staying on in full-time education or training until they are 18. It says an exam at 14 is needed to highlight a pupil's strengths and help determine their future path in education.

Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of the University of Buckingham, who produced the report, compared secondary school policies across 30 westernised nations. In 26 of them, it says, there is "a clear array of pathways" at the age of 14 covering pre-university education and technical training.

This model would bring English secondary schooling into line with the new 14-to-19 University Technical Colleges being pioneered by former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker, who wants a network of 40 such colleges around the country. The report says ministers must decide if they are "happy to separate on social lines as now" or if they want children "to be grouped on educational merit", allowing more selection by ability. So far, the Conservatives have steered away from introducing more selection although some of their backbenchers are strongly in favour of it. But the argument in the report makes it clear that introduction of some form of selection at 14 would be preferable to any return to the old 11-plus system.

"Such is the emotion attached to selection that it is almost never considered, yet it has to occur some time in education," the report argues. In most countries, it occurs mainly on entry to upper-secondary education.

Professor Smithers said: "In England selection is fudged so we don't have clear pathways in the later years of schooling, particularly when it comes to technical training and preparation for employment. Hence the need to import so many skilled workers from abroad."

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Trust, said: "Often, children's choices are dictated by the school they happen to be in, not their own talents and interests."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Qualified Nursery Nurse for Bury Nu...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Full time key stage 2 teacher job at ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn