Gove Levels

Revising for exams


You will, no doubt, have read in the press and seen in the media much talk about the proposed changes to GCSEs and exams taken at age 16.

Why are the changes being made? Basically the GCSE ‘brand’ has become toxic.  Grade inflation has become rampant and confidence in the exam has fallen. It is now much simpler to rip it up and start again than try to unravel and re-calibrate GCSEs.

Does this mean that the GCSE is now worthless? Not by any means.  Students can only take the exams that are put in front of them, and for the next few years these will continue to be GCSEs.  Employers know what they mean, colleges know what they mean and University admissions tutors know what they mean and they are still a very valuable exam that do show the progress and achievement that a child has made by age 16.

So what’s going to be different about the new exams? The main difference under the ‘new regime’ will be the absence of coursework and modular exams.  Currently, coursework is set, done and marked during the two years of the GCSE course and some exams may be taken at different stages during the two year course. With the ‘Gove Levels’ the children will be assessed solely by exams at the end of the two year process.

What is the English Baccalaureate? The English Baccalaureate, or EBacc, is not a separate exam or test in itself, but a wrapper that contains 5 good (that means grade C or better) GCSEs, or ‘Gove Levels’ under the new system, in: maths, English, Science, History or Geography and a modern foreign language.  A child who has achieved 5 grade Cs in those subjects will be able to say that they have an English Baccalaureate.  The main purpose, though, of the EBacc is to provide a means to measure the performance of schools by.  Expect to see league tables with schools ranked by the percentage of pupils achieving an EBacc.

Who will this affect? The new courses will start to be taught to year 10’s in September 2015, with them sitting the exams at the end of their year 11 in 2017.  That means that those children currently in year 7 will be the first to sit the new ‘Gove Levels.’ Current year 8 pupils and above will still take GCSEs.

Crystal ball gazing  So what of the future? I can see an extended essay/project/piece of research/coursework being added to the EBacc at some point in the future. But I think the next big debate will about whether we need exams at 16. With most (soon to be all) staying on in education until at least 18, the relevance of a string of exams at 16 does begin to be called into question. Once you’ve done your A-Levels or equivalent, your GCSEs lose their importance, just as if you do a degree, your A-Level results become much less relevant.  One thing I think we can be sure of – this being education it won’t be left alone for long.

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  • By Gove Levels Part II – The I Level on 04/06/2013 at 8:46 pm

    […] in September, I wrote about “Gove Levels” – the proposed changes to the exam system for 16 year olds proposed by the Secretary of State […]

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