The existing GCSEs, which pupils have sat for nearly three decades, are to be swept aside, and a tougher and more rigorious exam will replace them, the Education Secretary announced today.
Pupils in England will attempt the new qualification from the summer of 2017. There will be less coursework and greater emphasis on final written tests.
Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:
Michael Barry, headteacher at St Matthews Academy in South East London has said that he is concerned that the changes to GCSEs "feel a bit rushed" and may be a knee-jerk reaction to the English GCSE fiasco last year:
Mr Gove said the higher level of demand in the new GCSEs would equip students to progress to higher education or a good apprenticeship.
The Education Secretary said the government could "raise the bar confidently, knowing we have the best generation of teachers ever in our schools to help students achieve more than ever before".
He said there was a widespread consensus that the government needed to improve the examination system to "enhance public confidence".
Mr Gove revealed that awarding exam bodies will be given a clearer idea of what the government expects in each subject.
"Under the previous system, specifications were often too vague," he said.
"This caused suspicion and speculation that some exam boards were harder than others, undermining the credibility of the exam system as a whole.
"Including more detail in our requirements for subject content should ensure greater consistency and fairness across subjects and between exam boards."
Labour's Shadow Education Secretary said parents and pupils will be concerned by the "uncertainty" that Michael Gove has created around GCSEs.
"Pupils and parents will be concerned by the uncertainty that Michael Gove has created around GCSEs. Having first talked down their value and then failed in his attempt to scrap them, the Education Secretary is having another go at setting out his plans.
"We need changes to assessments in schools that will strengthen rigour and reflect the best ways of testing skills and knowledge. Encouraging more shallow learning of facts alone will not help young people to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. This will take us backwards.
"Michael Gove has had plenty of chances to bring forward evidence-informed policies but I fear he has not learnt from past mistakes. He keeps failing because he hasn't got a thought through plan to improve exams."
The exams regulator Ofqual's has published a report for consultation, confirming planned changed to GCSEs, including:
- Grading GCSEs on a scale of 8 to 1
- Examine pupils at the end of their two-year-courses, abolishing the modular system which allows pupils to take papers throughout the course. Exams will only take place in the summer, except for in English language and maths, where November re-sits will be allowed
- Cutting the number of subjects which have "tiered" exams - papers aimed at high and low ability students
- Only allow coursework where exams cannot test certain skills or knowledge
Ofqual's role is to make sure that qualifications are of high quality. GCSEs are important and valued qualifications, but we have seen over the last two years that they can be improved.
– Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator
We want to see qualifications that are more stretching for the most able students, using assessments that really test knowledge, understanding and skills essential to the subject, and that are designed so that outcomes are well regarded.