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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there