It seems plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate have been shelved. Instead, year 7 pupils when reaching year 10 in September 2015 will study for re-vamped GCSE exams in a move which Michael Gove believes will encourage greater academic rigour. The plans involve the removal of coursework, as the modular approach is discarded in favour of a move towards tougher exams taken at the end of the two year course. The aim of this move is to limit opportunities for re-sits, challenging students to build broader knowledge and skills towards end of course exams. According to Mr Gove, exams will be ’more demanding, more fulfilling and more stretching’.
These changes will initially cover core subjects of English Language and Literature, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Combined Science, History and Geography.
A*-G grades will be replaced with numbers 8-1 with a higher ‘pass’ mark. Tiered papers will be removed in favour of one exam for all, regardless of ability.
New exams will credit a higher percentage of marks for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and will require a wider range of writing skills, with a greater number of open-ended essay questions and problem solving. There will be more detailed subject content within the syllabus requiring for example students to study the whole text of a Shakespeare play or a Dickens novel, rather than just one act or scene. Algebra will become a key element of the maths syllabus.
It remains to be seen if these proposals survive the consultation process or if they go the same way as the EBacc. Whatever the outcome, it seems the debate will continue as to whether the current GCSE exams present enough challenge and rigour to maintain adequate standards in education, preparing young people for the future world of work on an increasingly global stage.