GCSEs are to be scrapped and new, more rigorous O-levels brought back in the most radical overhaul of the school exams system for 30 years, it has been reported.

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Education Secretary Michael Gove is set to abolish the national curriculum in English secondary schools according to leaked documents seen by the Daily Mail.

The new examinations will “meet or exceed the highest standards in the world for that age group”, according to one document seen by the paper.

The plans are likely to set Mr Gove on a collision course with both the teaching unions and the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition.

Under his proposals, pupils would begin studying for “explicitly harder” O-levels - covering traditional academic subjects such as English, maths, history, modern languages and the sciences - from September 2014.

“Those starting GCSEs in 2013 are the last pupils who will have to do them,” one document states.

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.

In order to encourage schools to adopt the new exam, the requirement that pupils should seek to obtain five good GCSEs graded A* to C will be abolished leaving them free to take the new O-levels.

Mr Gove is said to want 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 through grade inflation and a proliferation of “Mickey Mouse” courses.

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.

For Labour, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said Mr Gove must spell out the implications of his proposals to parents.

“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?” he said.

“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.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaks.”

28 comments

  • It's about time something was done about GCSE's. They have been so watered down and it's the students I feel sorry for. When they first came out just one or two students would get an A* award. I know because my son was one of the very few in his year who was awarded A* in Maths, Technology and Double Science. As the years went on more & more students got them and it is now very common indeed for students to get 10 A*. The exams have got easier and easier.

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    samphirelover

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Same old rubbish from the government. They don't get the results they want so they roll back to something that was changed in years gone by (and for reasons that were classed as valid then). So, completely alter the school system again, turn it into disarray, let the next few years of school children suffer the chaos in their results then change it again. They added AS-Levels to the A-Level portfolio before and that failed. NVQ as well (mine was documenting what I'd done before in the last few weeks - not worth a lot...). Sort out the myriad of exam boards who don't seem to consistently mark exams first. Make education available to all rather than saddle us with debt we've not a hope to ever pay off.

    Report this comment

    Kevin Vincent

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I was in the last year that took O levels. I struggled and only managed to get a grade C in English language - I failed the rest. I took all the exams a year later as GCSEs and passed them all (C or above) without any problem or any further lessons. To say GCSEs are easier is a massive understatement.

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    rooboy

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Education is available to all .. just that some don't want to be bothered to learn.

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, June 22, 2012

  • And pray what is wrong with Seamus Heaney? This all reaks of 'back to the future' mentality. What one should consider is that access to information and methods of work have changed considerably, especially in more recent times. Again; this is about forcing square pegs into round holes. Ignoring the collective scenario at the expense of individual's achieving their own personal potential.

    Report this comment

    micklynn

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I have spent the last two years working up to my seventeen GCSE exams, from which I will gain twelve qualifications. To be told, a mere six days away from my final exam, that my GCSEs are worthless infuriates me. If these GCSEs are so easy, why don't more people get AA*s at GCSEs? Trust me, they are not easy, and I have worked my backside off for two years to pass every exam I have taken so far. To be told that O levels will make pupils work 'explicitly harder' disgusts me - what do they think we do when studying for our GCSEs? Mess around for two years and still somehow come out with GCSEs? No. This is a complete and utter disgrace, and I am appalled that they have decided to 'leak' this so close to the end of our examinations. Will this negate two years of hard work for every 16 year old in the country because GCSEs are deemed too easy? I sincerely hope not.

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    slade0212

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • What a strange thing to say BG ! Before the days when university education became widespread A levels were respected by employers. HMR&C and the DSS and many retail company management trainee schemes took on students who left sixth form with A levels. A levels have now become a way to university but there is not so much wrong with them. As for technical colleges when they are good they are very good, but qualifications such as NVQs are in my opinion discredited. MPs-ministers would not have to be wondering if nursery care workers needed NVQ level 3 ( which is meant to be equivalent to an A level, which is a joke given the minimum entry standards) if NVQs in some subjects were not doled out like sugar cubes to those with the IQ of a rocking horse. Practical subjects well taught and tested and accredited can only be good, but this pretence of equivalence is a joke, especially when used to access other courses which really do need academic ability. No one would expect to use an A level in an academic subject as a means to enter a practical qualification at a higher level, so why the other way around? Labour really messed up all round.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I have spent the last two years working up to my seventeen GCSE exams, from which I will gain twelve qualifications. To be told, a mere six days away from my final exam, that my GCSEs are worthless infuriates me. If these GCSEs are so easy, why don't more people get AA*s at GCSEs? Trust me, they are not easy, and I have worked my backside off for two years to pass every exam I have taken so far. To be told that O levels will make pupils work 'explicitly harder' disgusts me - what do they think we do when studying for our GCSEs? Mess around for two years and still somehow come out with GCSEs? No. This is a complete and utter disgrace, and I am appalled that they have decided to 'leak' this so close to the end of our examinations. Will this negate two years of hard work for every 16 year old in the country because GCSEs are deemed too easy? I sincerely hope not.

    Report this comment

    slade0212

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Presumably a coincidence this story was leaked to the media on the night things got sticky for the PM about tax evasion...

    Report this comment

    Jono

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • > Ollie Holmes. Children may have become smarter at passing exams, but that doesn't mean they are smarter or more intelligent. >Daisy Roots. Last sentence ... absolutely right. Spot on.

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    Patrick

    Friday, June 22, 2012

  • I feel sorry for Slade-but if GCSEs were equivalent to O levels only around 20% of year 11 should be getting an A-C and don't forget that the current A is equivalent to grades 1&2 of the old GCE. And I wonder if NorfolkM studied old style GCEs- I seem to remember much more opportunity for creative thought in some subjects than is possible with current GCSEs. I am of the opinion that it is important to actually learn something as well as launching off being dynamic and creative. Some history GCSE courses are apparently flawed because they ask children to empathise and analyse before they have clue about context. I suspect PC game coders and research scientists and doctors who actually have something concrete at their finger tips- even if not Latin- would worry that they are not seen as open minded or dynamic. I appreciate the comment about variables though and am aware that comparing now with GCEs in the sixties and seventies is not straight forward.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • O Levels were never 'Gold Standard'. GCSEs didn't get easier. Teaching got better and children got smarter. Gove yet again being foolish.

    Report this comment

    Ollie Holmes

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I have spent the last two years working up to my seventeen GCSE exams, from which I will gain twelve qualifications. To be told, a mere six days away from my final exam, that my GCSEs are worthless infuriates me. If these GCSEs are so easy, why don't more people get AA*s at GCSEs? Trust me, they are not easy, and I have worked my backside off for two years to pass every exam I have taken so far. To be told that O levels will make pupils work 'explicitly harder' disgusts me - what do they think we do when studying for our GCSEs? Mess around for two years and still somehow come out with GCSEs? No. This is a complete and utter disgrace, and I am appalled that they have decided to 'leak' this so close to the end of our examinations. Will this negate two years of hard work for every 16 year old in the country because GCSEs are deemed too easy? I sincerely hope not.

    Report this comment

    slade0212

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Slade0212 x3 No one has said that GCSEs are worthless. Political and Press hype trying to stir against Michael Gove. At least the man has the courage and personality to stand up and make adventurous comments and suggestions, come up with some ideas. Not like most mealy-mouthed politicians who want to APPEAR to do something but really only want to win their seat at the next election.

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, June 22, 2012

  • I wonder if those who think that exams have been watered down have considered that individual learning styles and thus more effective teaching delivery has been better identified, that students may have become more intelligent or that access to information has improved?

    Report this comment

    micklynn

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Michael Gove must be getting something right as a significant number of senior Labour MPs today agreed with many of his proposals when he answered Labour`s call for a statement on the leak. Unfortunately education in this country has suffered, not from lack of funding but from a media savvy Labour administration who were more concerned with league tables rather than ensuring the cash was spent on providing people with a rounded education, as opposed to an "education," whose main aim was how to pass exams.

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    BG

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Here we go again, another bit of lazy journalism...ask a contentious question and sit back doing nothing whilst the opinions roll in...sometimes I wish I had pursued journalism as a career because my actual job is really hard work...sadly my GCSE's, A-Levels and degree were too good and I chose a career requiring a high level of intellect instead....silly me....;)

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    merrydancer

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I recall when GCSEs were introduced. There was a lot of speculation about them not being as hard as the old GCEs. Since GCSEs came along, more and more pupils are getting extremely good results. QED. However, for those pupils who will have to sit the new GCEs, it must be like those people nearing pensionable age, who are told that they have now to work longer before they can draw their pension! Some you lose, some you draw as they used to say about NCFC!!

    Report this comment

    Beezageoff

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Will somebody please tell Sir Anthony Hopkins that we've found his ventriloquist's dummy and it's making mischief again...

    Report this comment

    ThePresence

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Shouldn't Gove have discussed this with his Coalition partners the LibDems before he did with the Daily Mail?Nick Clegg has already said he will scupper these plans for a two-tier system.Another serious rift between a Coalition which isn't working out and which could lead to an acrimonious divorce sooner rather than later..

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • 50 0dd years on and O levels are still regarded with a great deal of respect. A levels on the other hand have never enjoyed the same credibility and the sooner they are done away with the better. Just goes to show, we should have stuck to the old methods of education - including grammar schools and technical colleges.

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    BG

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • What the education system is lacking is an emphasis on creativity and critical thinking. The back to basics rhetoric is too often synonymous with classical approaches to education. It is difficult to anticipate what exactly the economic and social context will be 5 years from now, thus creative, dynamic and open minded people is what we need, not those who have been beaten over the head with calculus and Latin for 16 years of their lives. I often hear this talk of "GCSE's are a doddle" etc., but very little evidence for making such a claim. Whilst Daisy Rose asserts a "cooking of the books" there are many possible confounding variables which may influence measurements of educational performance. An understanding of how to interpret statistics was an important feature of my maths GCSE, something that appears to be lacking in the remarks of many commentators and policy makers. Where did your Latin O-level get you?

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    NrflkM

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I think we should fill up our schools with history, art and sports teachers, perhaps with one or two of them having the odd science and maths GCSE at grade c or above. That way we will continue to lead the world in educational standards.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

  • Obfuscation over Viscount Asquith's tax affairs...

    Report this comment

    fester1902

    Friday, June 22, 2012

  • When I took O levels it was at grammar school. Few other schools offered them. Only 15-20% of each school year group in Norfolk went to grammar school ( if I remember correctly) and not all of those managed 7 GCE O levels. So pretty obvious that when around 50% of all Year 11 pupils are getting the supposed equivalent of a GCE O level ie GCSE grade A-C that there has been a massive cooking of the books. And some courses , especially GCSE double science are not fit for the purpose of preparing pupils for A levels. To revert to GCE and CSE will cause problems. One will be course design-at what point will transfer between the two be possible, if an ability or lack of ability becomes obvious at a late stage ie will the courses share components. The other will be the outcry when it becomes obvious that some children are consigned to CSE sets but are borderline ability simply because of class sizes. League tables will have to be designed so that schools do not fail children by placing them in inappropriate exam groups, that they do not gain anything by entering bright children for CSE exams nor by risking a not so bright child's chances by entering them for GCE. Not straightforward at all.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Good. The harder my child has to work the better. Hard work equals success. Although I have just been given the English GCSEO level choices. Seamus Heaney? Please!

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    alecto

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Mr Gove is not fit to make any decisions on education, the Beccles free school saga has clearly shown that he is diominishing pupils provisions and budgets. His next feat will be to make out that straffing children with a birch and sending them up chimneys is worth going back to.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • The Govenment should also scrap NVQs - a pointless excerise which employers do not understand or rate - make everyone take proper exams over a one or two year period and stop pampering to the less intelligent people who do not deserve a qualification which they have not earned. Some one has to be at the bottom of the pile - so it might as well be the ones too lazy to take proper exams.

    Report this comment

    A Resident

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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