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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own