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Unions condemn Government plan to scrap the traditional examination grades
A major shake-up of GCSE courses has been met with scepticism by members of the two largest teaching unions.
Yesterday the Department For Education announced that traditional GCSE grades will be scrapped and replaced with a numbered scale under the biggest reforms of the exams for decades.
The move will also see one more grade added to the system as part of a bid to distinguish between the “brightest” students, and coursework – which currently makes up a large part of many GCSEs – could be scrapped.
Unions say that while there are some benefits to the new system, many students and teachers could suffer from such a dramatic shake-up.
England’s exams regulator Ofqual said that under the changes, pupils will be graded from one to nine – with nine the highest mark available. There are currently eight grades – A*-G.
The first three subjects to be revamped – English Literature, English Language and maths – are due to be taught in secondary schools in England from 2015, with the first exams taken in the summer of 2017. This means students currently in year 8 will be the first to take the new-style exams.
A year later new GCSEs in science, history, geography and some modern foreign languages, as well as other subjects often taught in schools like RE and art, will be introduced.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: “You don’t get many opportunities to radically reform qualifications and make them the best they can be, and this is a once in a decade opportunity.
“It will be fairer to all students that users of the qualification will be able to see immediately whether they did the new or a previous version of the GCSE. The new scale will also allow better discrimination between the higher-performing students.”
Ian Murch, regional spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, feels that dropping coursework will disadvantage many students.
He said: “It will all boil down to how you do on an exam on one day. It is not good if you have an off-day at the end of a two year course. The outcome of one test will determine everything.
“I don’t think this will be popular with teachers.”
Pam Milner, a national executive member of the NASUWT union, said: “The Government seems to be introducing these reforms without consulting the people who best and doing it at 100mph, without even knowing if it will work.
“The students who can’t cope so well in the exam situation won’t be able to rely on the good coursework they do. If students can’t cope with that pressure now then these changes are going to leave them even more disenfranchised.”