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November 3, 2012

Report says UK teachers \’boosted GCSE marks\’

Report says UK teachers ‘boosted GCSE marks’

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According to a new report by the United Kingdom exams regulator Ofqual, some teachers have been marking students’ General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) coursework “significantly” too high.

Cquote1.svg “Children have been let down. That won’t do”. Cquote2.svg

—Glenys Stacey

Pupils sit GCSEs aged between 14–16. Part of the pupils’ overall grade is made up of controlled assessment, which usually takes place in a controlled environment in school. The rest of the grade comes from the final exam.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said schools were under too much pressure to achieve certain grades, which contributed to the over-marking. She also said exams place too much emphasis on teachers’ marks. “We have been shocked by what we have found. Children have been let down. That won’t do. It’s clear that children are increasingly spending too much time jumping through hoops rather than learning the real skills they need in life. That won’t do.” She said English teachers had been put under particular pressure. “Teachers feel under enormous pressure in English, more than in any other subject, and we have seen that too often, this is pushing them to the limit. That won’t do either.”

The leaders of several teaching unions objected to the report. “For Ofqual to suggest that teachers and schools are to blame is outrageous, and flies in the face of the evidence. Ofqual is responsible for ensuring fairness and accuracy in the system”, said Deputy General Sectretary of the of the ASCL union Malcolm Trobe. “The fact remains that different standards were applied to the exams in June and January and this is blatantly wrong. The accountability measures do place tremendous pressure on teachers and schools, especially at GCSE grade C, but to say that teachers would compromise their integrity to the detriment of students is an insult.”

There was controversy concerning GCSE English exams in the UK earlier this year. In June’s GCSE English exam, the grade boundaries were different from the exam in January, which meant thousands of pupils received lower June grades than they would have in January. The Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews ordered a re-grading of Welsh pupils’ exam papers; pupils who sat exams in England were left with their original grades.

Ofqual released an initial report, finding that the grade boundaries set for the June exam were correct but the exam in January was in some cases “graded generously”.

Pupils in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland currently sit GCSEs. This year, the UK government announced plans to replace GCSEs with a new examination, similar to the old O-levels. In Scotland pupils currently sit Standard Grade examinations, which will shortly be replaced by National 4 and 5 exams.



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June 22, 2012

UK education secretary Michael Gove to drop GCSEs in favour of new O-level-style exams

UK education secretary Michael Gove to drop GCSEs in favour of new O-level-style exams

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Michael Gove, the UK’s education secretary.
Image: Paul Clarke.

According to documents leaked to the press, Conservative education secretary Michael Gove intends to drop GCSE exams as part of a sweeping reform of the school exam system in England and replace them with exams based on the traditional “O-level” system that GCSEs replaced in the 1980s.

As leaked, Gove plans to phase out the current General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams, with students taking exams in the replacement courses in the summer of 2016. Combined science courses would be split out into separate qualifications in physics, biology, and chemistry. Gove has said reforms to the examination system are needed to fight against what he perceives to be a “dumbing down” of academic standards.

The top ‘A’ grade in mathematics would require advanced topics such as Calculus, and English literature exams would no longer allow access to the set text.

Cquote1.svg I can hardly think of a worse education reform than ‘bringing back the CSE’ – dead-end exams for children treated as second rate. Cquote2.svg

—Andrew Adonis, Labour Peer

The leaked document also notes the government intends to scrap the National Curriculum at the secondary school level “and not replace it”. Instead, school headteachers would be able to decide what to teach in order to prepare pupils for the examination.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the plans were “self-evidently not policy that has been discussed or agreed within the coalition”.

Justice minister Ken Clarke suggested on BBC programme Question Time the leak originated within the Department of Education rather than from Gove personally: “If the secretary of state for education leaked it I would feel very strongly about it, but I don’t think he did”.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart has questioned the timing of the plans given reforms to GCSEs last year. “This has come out of the blue”, he said to BBC Radio 4. “Just last year, the government was ramping up its new GCSE target and now a year on we are having to change back to the future, and back to O-Levels.”

Kevin Brennan, Labour‘s shadow schools minister, said Gove’s proposals were a move “back to the 1950s”.

Cquote1.svg the current system needs improving … some GCSEs really don’t stretch the very brightest Cquote2.svg

—Dr Wendy Piatt

Andrew Adonis, a Labour Peer, criticised the plans on Twitter: “I can hardly think of a worse education reform than ‘bringing back the CSE’ – dead-end exams for children treated as second rate.” Nick Clegg mirrored this complaint, saying he would oppose any plan “that would lead to a two-tier system where children at quite a young age are somehow cast on a scrap heap”.

Dr Wendy Piatt from the Russell Group, which represents a number of top-end British universities, agreed with Michael Gove that there is a problem: “the current system needs improving”, she told ITV’s Daybreak, because “some GCSEs really don’t stretch the very brightest”. Piatt warned “there is a real danger here… there is a worry that at a very early age you will be pigeonholed and then put on a course that is not really suitable for you and then you won’t be able to change to the more academic course”.

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Dr Kevin Stannard from the Girls Day School Trust challenged the plans, suggesting since “able pupils” are already going to continue studying some subjects, “why not require them to take exams at 16 only in the core subjects that they propose to drop? That would encourage breadth in learning to 16, while also giving students the space for deeper learning.”

Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister in Wales, said Wales “certainly won’t be bringing back O-levels” and leaking the plans to the newspapers was a “bonkers way of proceeding”. Instead, he vowed the Welsh would make decisions as to curriculum and exam reform “in our own time on the basis of evidence supplied to us”.



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January 28, 2008

UK allows corporations to award high school credits

UK allows corporations to award high school credits

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Monday, January 28, 2008

A McDonald’s in Exeter.
Image: Billy Hicks.

The government of the United Kingdom has given corporations like fast food chain McDonald’s the right to award high school qualifications to employees who complete a company training program.

Two other businesses, railway firm Network Rail and regional airline Flybe, were also approved. The decision was made by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees the national curriculum.

McDonald’s said it will offer a “basic shift manager” course, which will train staff in marketing, customer service, and other areas of restaurant management. Completion of this course will be the equivalent of passing the GCSE, the standard exam taken at age 16, or the Advanced Level, taken at age 18.

Network Rail plans to offer a course in rail engineering, while Flybe is developing a course involving aircraft engineering and cabin crew training. Passing Flybe’s course could result a university level degree.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown supports the plan. “It is going to be a tough course, but once you have got a qualification in management you can probably go anywhere,” Brown said. He emphasized the importance of higher education, saying, “Every young person needs a skill and to think about going to college, doing an apprenticeship or university.”

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, called the decision “an important step towards ending the old divisions between company training schemes and national qualifications” and said it will “benefit employees, employers and the country as a whole.”

However, some people are unsure of the plan’s effectiveness. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said, “We are unsure whether those institutions would be clamoring to accept people with McQualifications,” using a derogatory term for the program.



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