It's reported that GCSEs are set to be scrapped and replaced by new, more rigorous O-levels.

The Daily Mail says it has seen leaked documents outlining the most radical overhaul of the school exams system for 30 years.

It says the Education Secretary Michael Gove will abolish the national curriculum in English secondary schools.

Among the proposals are:

  • GCSEs disappear from schools within the next few years

  • Pupils would begin studying for "explicitly harder" O-levels

  • Requirement that pupils obtain five good GCSEs graded A* to C will be scrapped

  • Pupils of lower academic standard will sit simpler exams, similar to the old CSEs

Under Michael Gove's proposals, pupils would begin studying for O-levels - covering traditional academic subjects such as English, maths, history, modern languages and the sciences - from September 2014.

One document states:

Those starting GCSEs in 2013 are the last pupils who will have to do them.

Maths exam at a school in Cheltenham Credit: Press Association

Pupils will begin sitting the new O-levels from 2016, with papers set by a single examination board to provide a single "gold standard" test across the country.

Less able pupils will sit simpler examinations similar to the old CSEs. They will include simpler tests in English and maths in order to provide them with "worthwhile" qualifications.

The goverment reportedly wants to reverse a "historic mistake" by the Tories in the 1980s when he believes the creation of GCSEs led to a collapse in academic standards.

A pupil sitting an exam in Cheltenham Credit: Press Association

To succeed in the modern world, young people need a broad education, not a narrow one. Will pupils doing these new exams get access to creative or innovative learning that will create the jobs of the future? Will this divide children at 14 into winners and losers? With no secondary national curriculum how will he ensure a rigorous approach to learning in all schools? If there is to be a major overhaul parents will want reassurance that the new system will enable all children to progress and reach their full potential.

The changes will see a return to individual examinations in physics, chemistry and biology instead of a single, combined science qualification.

Maths students will be expected to study complex subjects like calculus in order to get the top A grades, while English literature students will have to write longer essays and will not be allowed to take set texts into the exam room.

Mr Gove is said to be preparing to announce his plans formally in the next two weeks before launching a 12-week consultation.

None of the changes require legislation.

The Department for Education said:

We do not comment on leaks.