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Ofqual launches consultation on GCSE reform

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Ofqual has today (Tuesday, 11th June) launched a 12 week consultation on GCSE reform. 

The Secretary of State wrote to Ofqual earlier this year to set out his policy and curriculum objectives for reformed GCSEs in England.  We considered the letter carefully and agreed to set in hand a reform programme, which will also be an opportunity to address some concerns we have about current GCSEs.  This initial consultation therefore sets out our proposed regulatory arrangements for reformed qualifications, which are in line with the policy objectives.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said: “Ofqual’s role is to make sure that qualifications are of high quality.  GCSEs are important and valued qualifications, but we have seen over the last two years that they can be improved. We have a real opportunity here to put in place reformed GCSEs which are engaging and worthwhile to study and to teach. Quite legitimately, the Secretary of State has set out his policy and curriculum ambitions for the reformed qualifications, and we have taken account of those.

“We want to see qualifications that are more stretching for the most able students, using assessments that really test knowledge, understanding and skills essential to the subject, and that are designed so that outcomes are well regarded.  The consultation seeks views on the defining characteristics of the reformed qualifications.  In developing our proposals, we have looked at a range of evidence including from overseas, and looked at the lessons from past difficulties with reformed qualifications. 

“We want the reformed qualifications to command the confidence of those who use them.  So we ask the education community and all others with an interest to engage fully with this consultation, and we look forward to receiving their views.”

The proposals, which would apply to GCSEs in England, would see:

  • All GCSEs become linear in design, with examinations only taking place in the summer (excluding November resits in English language and maths).
  • A principled approach to whether there should be tiered assessments, which will lead to a reduction in the number of subjects where there is tiering.
  • GCSEs graded on a scale of eight to one with a different distribution of grades.
  • Internal assessment only used where exams cannot validly assess the skills and knowledge required. Any alternative to exams must be fit for purpose, directly assess what they claim to assess and designed to be resilient to pressures from the wider system.

The intention is that reformed qualifications in English language, English literature, mathematics, the sciences, history and geography would be ready for first teaching in September 2015.  Other subjects would be introduced from 2016.  We will also plan further consultations, in particular on how we will set and maintain standards and the title and scope of the reformed qualifications.

A parallel consultation on curriculum content for the reformed qualifications is being launched today by the Department for Education, reflecting the proposed new National Curriculum. The consultation can be found here.

Ofqual has today also published a report on our review into controlled assessment.

The Ofqual consultation and supporting documents can be found here.

Over the coming weeks, Ofqual will be running a series of events. These events are designed to help a wide range of stakeholders find out as much information as possible before taking part in the consultation.

The event details are:

2nd July – University of Manchester

5th July – Aston University Business School, Birmingham

11th July – Hotel Russell, London

12th July – Aston University Business School, Birmingham