Will Michael Gove's high-stakes final exams put 'girl power' into reverse?

 

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s exam reforms could discriminate against girls, teachers warned today.

Delegates to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) conference in Liverpool pointed out research showed girls had outperformed boys in every year since the GCSE exam – with its accent on coursework done through the school year – had been introduced in 1988. Mr Gove now wants a return to the emphasis being on the final examination.

Geoff Venn, a former chief examiner in chemistry and teacher in Bedfordshire, said: “One of the first things we noticed (when GCSEs were introduced) was that the girls’ results with continuous assessment – and not just the final examination – produced a major improvement.

“It was at that point that girls started to feel confident that they could excel at GCSE – and then went on to greater things.

Figures show the gap between girls and boys was 4.3 per cent in the first year of the exam – with 43.7 per cent of boys’ scripts being awarded at least a C grade compared with 48 per cent of girls.  It rose to 7.9 per cent in 2012 with almost three out of four girls’ scripts (73.3 per cent) being awarded a C grade.

Under the previous system of O-levels and CSE examinations, boys overall outperformed girls – with the gap being particularly marked in science.

“If Michael Gove is going to go back to the idea of having one final exam – purely memory based – we could see the situation where GCSE results for girls go down,” Mr Venn added.

“Boys excel in a high stakes test whereas girls feel less confident in an examination situation.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, added:  “The rise of girl power in qualifications and assessment is down to a more measured way of assessment – of which coursework is a part.”

She added: “It is not just teachers who are concerned about the direction of travel of exams.  It is parents as well.  Parents understand that performance in an examination on one day and one two or three hour test is not a fair communicator of achievement – nor of the work the students have done during the course.

“We all know that performance in any given examination is dependent on a range of things – including how well prepared you are, how you feel on the day and whether the right questions come up.”

Delegates voiced “dismay” that Mr Gove intended to press ahead with his exam reforms – with the first teaching of  the new arrangements for GCSE and A-levels being introduced in 2015 and exams taken in 2017.  They urged ministers to allow more time for consultation over the reforms.

Niamh Sweeney, from Cambridgeshire, accused the Education Secretary of basing the reforms on a “whimsical fantasy” of returning schools to a bygone age by placing emphasis on studying a narrow range of core academic subjects.

“If a student is interested in a subject and wants to learn that subject, then that is of value,” she said.

Simon Clarkson, from Leicestershire, added: “We’re going to be left with a poor curriculum to teach.  I’m worried about the future, I’m worried about my friends and colleagues, I’m worried about my students.”

Tendai Mashapure, from Bellerbys College in Cambridge, said:  “I believe Michael Gove’s heart is in the right place and I’m not an enemy of promise but – whilst we totally support having high aspirations for students it is vital there is a realistic opportunity for all students to have valued qualifications."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there