Fisking the Mail on Sunday's "Gove-Levels" story
Adam Creen uncovers the inaccuracies in the paper's big education scoop.
The new exams, dubbed "Gove-levels", follow claims that GCSEs, which replaced O-levels in 1986, are too easy. Under Mr Gove’s shake-up, the current system whereby nearly three in ten pupils get A or A* grades will go. Instead as few as one in ten will get the top mark, Grade 1.
Marks will depend on a traditional ‘all or nothing’ three-hour exam at the end of the two-year course, rather than the current system in which up to half the grading is based on modules and continual assessment, followed by a 90-minute exam at the end.
Pupils will no longer be able to bump up their grades with endless re-sits of each exam module. In future they will have to re-sit the entire exam, which is expected to deter most.
There will be more complex algebra questions in maths exams and a return to essays in English literature exams instead of trendy GCSE ‘bite sized’ answers.
Catch up: The new exams are more rigorous and top grades will only go to the brightest children in an attempt to help English schools catch up with other countries as we trail in school standards
And in a controversial move designed to counter claims that GCSEs are far too easy for bright pupils, questions in the new exam will be graded, starting with easy questions and building up to difficult questions which will stretch the cleverest pupils. It means that less able pupils may be unable to complete the paper. But Mr Gove will argue it is vital to boost standards.
In addition, the new exams will be run by a single exam board following complaints that competition between rival boards is driving down standards.
Board officials have been accused of boasting how easy their exams are, and giving tips to teachers on the content of papers. Ministers said the current rules had created a ‘race to the bottom’ in standards.
According to a 2010 OECD study of 15-year-olds, the UK fell from 17th to 25th for reading, 24th to 28th for maths and 14th to 16th in science over a three-year period.
Its score went from below the international average to comfortably above it in that time, while its ranking improved from 12th out of 16 countries in 1995 to 7th out of 36 in 2007.
The other tests in the last round of TIMSS also brought good news. In secondary maths, England was the joint third most improved of 20 countries over the 1995-2007 period, rising from 11th out of 20 to 7th out of 49 in the rankings.
HOW THE NEW EXAM WILL WORK [Daily Mail "fact" box]
NOW Tens of thousands of pupils can bump up grades by re-sitting parts of the GCSE exams until they get a pass.
IN FUTURE Partial resits will end. Pupils will be forced to resit the entire exam.
NOW Final exam can be as short as 90 minutes.
IN FUTURE Three-hour exams.
NOW Maths exams have little algebra, English exams include ‘bite sized’ replies and rigorous English-to-foreign-language translations are rare.IN FUTURE More algebra in maths exams, more full length essays in English and a return to full English-to-foreign-language translation tests.
NOW Up to 50 per cent of exams are studied via modules and continual assessment.IN FUTURE Replaced by one exam at end of two-year course.
NOW Technically, everyone who gets a grade from A to G grade is deemed to have achieved a ‘pass’.IN FUTURE New 1 to 6 pass grade, 7 onwards will be fail.
NOW 22 per cent get A or A* grade. Around seven per cent of all candidates gain an A*.IN FUTURE As few as five per cent may get Grade 1.
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