Gove presses ahead with some aspects of GCSE reforms

17 Apr

The government intends to proceed with its timetable for new GCSEs and A levels to be introduced from 1 September 2015, a year after the new national curriculum is taught in maintained schools.  Ofqual, the examination regulator, described the timetable as “challenging”.  The NUT argued (rather dramatically) that it “could lead to a collapse of the system”.  Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), called for the introduction of the GCSEs to be delayed to September 2016, with the new A levels postponed for first teaching in 2018.

The government plans to introduce a new grading structure for the reformed GCSEs in English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, History, Geography, Computer Sciences and other Sciences from September 2015. News grades for the other subjects will follopw a year later.  Exam boards are hoping that the changes will include a new A** grade for the exceptionally bright or pupils having the opportunity of gaining an A* with merit.  Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, is clear that the bar for the C grade should be raised.

Gove also wants (despite opposition) to abandon the two-tier system of examinations in some subjects like Mathematics and to introduce only external assessments.  However, he has abandoned plans to franchise English, Mathematics and the Science to single exam boards, despite 82% of respondents (during the consultation) being in favour, stating that that was “a bridge too far”.   In the meantime, Gove has decided to scrap plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

He was heavily censured and caricatured by most of the educational world for doing both, doing away with plans for the EBC and maintaining the bulk of his proposals for reforming the examination system.   Some of the criticisms were justified. The timetable for changes smacks of a frenetic Secretary of State keen to make his mark before the current session of parliament ends.  But redesigning the curriculum in less than two years is daunting and then overhauling A Levels and GCSEs immediately after will leave the nation breathless.   Will it be the case of acting in haste and repenting at leisure?

Gove has also been marked down by the unions for doing a U-turn on the EBC, just when schools had been gearing their students to selecting the EBC subjects (though some are not up to it) simply to push the schools up the league tables.

One cannot but have a little sympathy for a Secretary of State who is damned because he does and damned also because he doesn’t.

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