Exam boards take on Gove over plan to kill off GCSEs

 

Two of the country's largest exam boards have outlined their plans for a radical shake-up of the system as thousands of teenagers await their A-level and GCSE results.

In an interview with The Independent, the chief executive of the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) board, Mark Dawe, calls for lower-level GCSE pass grades to be scrapped. "We're doing our students a disservice if they feel that's going to allow them to progress further," he said.

Meanwhile, the parent company of the Edexcel board unveiled plans yesterday for a new "gold standard" qualification for 16-year-olds, which would rival GCSEs. The announcements come as Education Secretary Michael Gove is considering reforms which would end GCSEs and bring in a tougher O-level-style exam.

Mr Dawe pointed out that most employers only recognise A* to C grade passes, and refuse to count grades D to G towards employment. He argued that the exam should be reconstituted to offer only A* to D or E grade passes, with a separate lower qualification for certain students to use as a "stepping stone" towards taking a full GCSE.

The age range should also be extended to 18, he said. "Some leavers won't be able to achieve it at 16 and it is therefore appropriate it could go on to 17 or 18 for them," he argued.

The plan would also involve scrapping the two-tier GCSE system, where exams are divided into higher and lower-level papers. Those who take the lower-tier paper cannot get higher than a C grade pass, so many of their achievements go unrecognised.

Meanwhile Edexcel's parent company Pearson said it had set up an international panel of education experts to plan a new qualification which would begin by offering new exams in English, maths and science.

Sir Michael Barber, a former education adviser to Tony Blair who is now involved with Pearson, has been appointed to head the programme.

In what could be interpreted as a sideswipe at Mr Gove, Sir Michael said: "The gold standard is not what happened in the 1950s in England. It is what is happening in Singapore and Hong Kong and Ontario and Alberta now. The gold standard is being set by the best education operating in the 21st century."

The panel will include members from Harvard and the Singapore and Australian education systems, with a view to producing an international "gold standard" exam. The proposals come as more than 250,000 teenagers await their A-level results on Thursday and a further 600,000 their GCSE results the following week. They also pre-empt a consultation paper on exam reform expected from the Government in the autumn.

There is not expected to be a substantial rise in the number of top grades and the overall pass rate this year as a result of an exhortation by Ofqual, the exams regulator, to ensure grades in both GCSEs and A-levels remain "roughly" the same as last year.

Their advice follows concern about grade inflation and Mr Gove's claim that exams have been "dumbed down". However, Mr Dawe pleaded with pundits to celebrate A* and A grade passes on Thursday "as if they were Olympic gold medals", arguing that if athletes could continually improve their performance, so could students.

"We shouldn't condemn students who have got extra As and Bs and Cs for having it easy," he said. "After all, research shows A-levels are holding their own when compared with other qualifications internationally."

* A headmaster wants AS-levels to be scrapped to give sixth-formers more time for sport. Dr Bernard Trafford, head of Newcastle's Royal Grammar School and a former chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, argued that the AS-level exam had failed in its original intention of broadening sixth-form studies and is stopping first-year sixth-fomers from pursuing other activities,

Exam Facts

2016: First year when pupils will sit new O-level exams at 16

58.2%: >GCSE pass rate at A* to C for 2010-11, up 3% on previous year

600,000: Number of teenagers awaiting their GCSE results next week

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

SEN Tutor- Speech and Language Specialist part time

£80 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

ESOL Tutor

£80 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are lookin...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?