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

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
News
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britain's internet habits have been revealed in a new survey
tech
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
news
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

Teaching Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Experienced Teaching Assistants ...

Team Manager with Level 3 Early Years Qualification

£18000 - £19000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Team Leader required ...

International Recruitment Consultant London/Dubai

£22000 - £28000 per annum + uncapped bonus: Randstad Education Group: Teachany...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher needed for No...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style