Michael Gove plans to scrap GCSEs and bring back tougher O-levels

The Education Secretary wants pupils to start studying for more difficult exams from 2012

The Education Secretary Michael Gove is drawing up proposals to scrap GCSE exams and replace them with revamped O-levels for the brightest students.

Under the plans, pupils would begin studying for “explicitly harder” exams at 16 in English, maths, physics, chemistry and biology from 2014.

But Mr Gove is likely to face strong opposition to his idea – not least from his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners – who fear that linked proposals to bring back easier CSE exams for “less intelligent” pupils will hamper social mobility. He will also be accused of pandering to the Tory right, who have long been unhappy with the Government’s failure to back the widespread reintroduction of grammar schools.

GCSEs were first introduced to end the social and academic divide between O-Levels and CSEs which required teachers to separate pupils into streams at 14. But critics have argued that GCSEs dumbed down Britain’s education system and have clamoured for the reintroduction of what they believe is a “gold standard” qualification.

Under Mr Gove’s proposals, leaked to the Daily Mail, the new exams would “meet or exceed the highest standards in the world for that age group”.

Mr Gove has understood to have already discussed his plans with the exams regulator Ofqual and will announce them later this month.

Under draft proposals – which have not yet been cleared with the Conservative Coalition partners and have emerged while the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is out of the country:

* The National Curriculum in secondary schools would be abolished to give heads freedom to teach what they like when they like;

* The Government will scrap the requirement that pupils obtain five good GCSEs graded A* to C to encourage uptake of the new O-Levels;

* Less intelligent pupils who currently get F or G grades at GCSE will sit new simpler exams like the old CSE.

A document, seen by the Mail, reveals: “Those starting GCSEs in 2013 are the last pupils who will have to do them,” sitting their exams in 2015.

More than two-thirds of pupils who begin in September 2014 will be expected to take O-Levels in English, maths and science in 2016. There will be individual O-Levels in physics, chemistry and biology. In a bid to end the slide in standards, pupils will have to study complex subjects like calculus to get an A grade in O-Level Maths. English students will be banned from taking set texts into exams and will be expected to write longer essays.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
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

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Governors for Victoria Education Centre and Sports College

Voluntary non trustee post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable