The GCSE revolution: Michael Gove to introduce new 'I level' exam

Students would have to wait a full year if they need re-sit

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The Independent Online

Further details emerged today over the Education Secretary Michael Gove's plans for a radical rethink on GCSEs.

The plan, outlined in The Independent last month, involves scrapping the present grading system entirely and replacing A* to E grades.

It was reported today that the new exams could be called I levels - with numbered grades from 1 to 8.

Ofqual - the examinations regulator for England - is proposing that course work will be abolished in all core exams except science, while re-sits will be curtailed.

Under the proposed changes, all end-of-course exams would be sat in the summer - apart from English and maths exams in November - and students would have to wait a full year if they wanted to re-sit them.

Ofqual - which is due to launch a consultation shortly - was said to have decided that a new name was needed for the exam,  according to The Times, as the Welsh Assembly had decided to retain the name GCSE for its exams, which will continue to feature modules and course work.

A new grade 8 would replace A* as the highest grade - although fewer would be awarded in order the reflect Education Secretary Michael Gove's aim of making exams harder while providing greater differentiation between the most able pupils.

Having 8 rather than 1 at the top would leave open the option of introducing a grade 9 if it was felt necessary to make it even more challenging.

The changes - covering English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, double science, history and geography - would be introduced in schools from 2015.

Mr Gove first revealed the outline for the changes to MPs when he addressed members of the Commons select committee on education last month, saying: "We have set the bar too low.  We have had a low level of expectations in the past. We will change how the exams are graded."

Ofqual refused last night to discuss details of the consultation paper, describing the report as “speculative”.

“We will be consulting shortly,” a spokeswoman said.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg: "This is now the third time Michael Gove has tried to abolish GCSEs. He keeps failing because he hasn't got a thought through plan to improve exams. Changing letters to numbers and the name of the exams is hardly the key to higher standards. We need serious proposals that learn from the best countries in the world.

"This needs a rigorous focus on English and Maths and testing both academic knowledge and the skills that young people will need in the workplace."