'Soft GCSEs' could face the axe from exam watchdog Ofqual


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The Independent Online

So-called soft GCSEs such as Media Studies and Leisure and Tourism could face the axe under a fresh overhaul by the exam watchdog Ofqual.

Michael Gove has already made courses in core subjects such as Maths and English much tougher. Now the exam regulator Ofqual is drawing up new rigorous guidelines which are expected to jettison ‘easier’ GCSEs altogether.

Courses such as Hospitality and Preparation for Life and Work - which teaches pupils about job applications - have a reputation for being easier for less academic pupils to pass. Critics say they undermine the reputation of British exams.

More than half of students taking Hospitality or Health and Social Care achieved a C grade or higher last year. In Leisure and Tourism more than two thirds of pupils got a C or above.

The numbers were not dissimilar for Maths and English, however. In Maths 62.1 per cent got A* to C last year and in English 63.6 per cent of pupils were given a C or more.

Ofqual, which approves courses drawn up by exam boards, will draw up strict new criteria for any subject to get GCSE status after 2016. It is likely this will mean many are reclassified as vocational qualifications.

A spokesman for Ofqual said: “From our point of view there’s nothing to stop any particular subject being reformed [to meet a high enough standard] but all the exams will have to meet the standards we set out.” He added: “Some courses might not carry on as GCSEs or A-levels.”