Teenagers sitting major exams could be told where they rank out of all their peers nationwide under new proposals being considered by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove is investigating whether to introduce a national grading system for the new O-level-style exam he is proposing to replace GCSEs, which would see each entrant given a position from one to about 200,000.
He floated the idea as one of a series of radical moves to overhaul A-levels at a seminar last October – but now wants to consider extending it to whatever replaces GCSEs.
The gradings could be used by universities and employers to differentiate between students, a large and growing proportion of whom obtain top grades. More than one in four A-level papers are now awarded an A grade pass.
Teachers’ leaders last night declared their opposition to the grading system, the results of which could be used (without naming individual pupils) in exam league tables. A school could boast, for instance, that one of its pupils was top in the entire country.
Burlington Danes academy in Hammersmith, west London, has trialled the idea and said it improved pupil performance in internal tests.
“Parents loved it,” said Mr Gove. “They got information they’d previously been denied. Now they accurately know where [their child] stood.”
He added that he realised it could be “a completely wrong-headed idea” but that he wanted to put it up for debate.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, added: “Not content with branding schools as failures, it [the Government] now wants to brand individual young people for life.”
Margaret Morrissey, from the parents’ pressure group Parents Outloud, said: “You can imagine a kid being really chuffed to get an A-level only to be told ‘actually, you’re 500th.’ ”
The Department for Education said it was discussing qualification reform with Ofqual, the exams regulator, and that ministers would be setting out their proposals soon.