Michael Gove urged to listen to advice on exams

 

Confidence in the examination system has been “shaken” by the fiasco over marking last year’s GCSE English papers, MPs said on Tuesday.

Their warning comes as Education Secretary Michael Gove prepares to unveil plans for a radical reform of the exam in the Commons later this morning - which will see coursework scrapped and a return to the days of an end-of-course examination.

An inquiry by the influential Commons select committee on education reveals that exam boards’ warning over marking standards for last GCSEs went unheeded - and urges ministers and exams regulator Ofqual to listen to their concerns in future.

It also finds that pupils whose exam papers were correctly marked were unfairly penalised by the decision to raise the boundary for a C grade pass for those who sat the exam in June.

The report concludes:  “There are some very sobering lessons to be learned… Confidence in the exam system has been shaken.”

Ofqual forced exam boards to raise the grade boundaries last summer after evidence emerged that the marks for those who had sat the exam in January were substantially higher than in the previous year.

The report says the reason could be traced to changes in the exam first mooted under Labour - which set aside more marks (60 per cent) for “controlled assessment” by teachers where pupils’ coursework is marked by their classroom teacher.

“Having such a high proportion of controlled assessment in a high stakes qualification puts teachers in a sensitive position,” says the report.  “They are given a high degree of control over the assessment in a qualification for which there is strong pressure to deliver good results - both for their pupils and for their schools.

“Exam board representatives told us that they raised concerns during the qualifications design phase that the proportion of controlled assessment was too high in GCSE English but these concerns were not acted upon.”

The upshot of Ofqual’s intervention - aimed at ensuring the pass rate was comparable to the previous year-  was “the unavoidable but highly unsatisfactory situation that students in schools, whose work was marked accurately by their teachers, may have been penalised”. Those whose marks were bumped up by teachers could still retain higher grade passes.

The inquiry found  exam boards’ fears were ignored because responsibility for regulating the exams was being passed from the former quango, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to Ofqual with only an interim board in place at the time.

The MPs warn that Education Secretary Michael Gove and Ofqual must head warnings from professionals as they seek to reform both GCSE and A-levels and pave the way for new, more rigorous GCSEs and A-levels in schools in September 2015.

“The turmoil surrounding last summer’s GCSE English results highlights the importance of carefully developing new sets of exams,” said Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the committee.

“When pursuing future reforms, it is crucial that ministers and Ofqual pay attention to expert opinion and don’t ignore warning voices.”

Many of Mr Gove's reforms will be welcomed by the MPs as they involve a massive reduction in controlled assessment and a move away from the modular exams criticised in the report.

However, one bone of contention will be the likely end of the agreement between England, wales and Northern Ireland that the three countries should set the same name.

the main reason for any change of name is because Mr Gove wants to distinguish his new more rigorous  exams from the current GCSE system Wales and Northern Ireland want to keep.

The report voices “concern” over the split up, saying that such a move would be “regrettable”. They add all three nations should continue to run GCSEs and A-levels and ministers should “do everything possible to bring this about”.
The report concludes: “There is still much to be done to restore confidence in English GCSEs, particularly amongst teachers.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'