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
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?