Should GCSE format be changed over the next few years The GCSE format is in need of a shake-up. This is certainly the attitude of many Politicians today. The format, a mixture of exams and classroom assessment as well as the breadth of subjects covered and opportunity to pupils of differing abilities, has already been modified as its development has inched forward over 25 years…
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In conclusion, it will review the various proposals. There has been a vigorous debate about failures in the GCSE. Anxiety focused on Grade inflation and the suspicion that GCSE grading was faulty, but knee-jerk changes to the grade boundaries that dominated results in summer 2012 when many students failed to get predicted Grade C, led to calls to Ofqual about harsh marking1 and claims that there was a “gross injustice done to many young people”; other concerns focus on cheating or unfair practice and the range of subjects that are offered. A number of politicians today have urged that the GCSE as it stands should be replaced with more rigorous tests with better grading systems. Replacing the GCSE, however, is not so simple and current plans are already delayed until 2018. A debate about the standard secondary school exam had been ongoing in British politics since the 1950s. Efforts to modify the O level system were proposed by the then education secretary Shirley Williams in the 1970s but the election of a Conservative Government in 1979 delayed her proposals of a single comprehensive examination that would mirror comprehensive schooling. Following changes to the Scottish Ordinary Grade exam for secondary school children2 and the establishment of the Scottish Standard3, the English-based O Level and CSE4 was replaced by the broader GCSE from 1986 to 1988 under plans drawn up by Keith Joseph in 1984. However, the O level, currently still set by the University of Cambridge International Examinations board, survived in the Commonwealth, with a comparable exam also based in Hong Kong which only recently switched to the IGCSE. Current GCSEs are graded from A-G (and U) and cover around 60 subjects including a number of Vocational courses that had previously been a part of the GNVQ examinations (General National Vocational Qualifications). The exams are set to a “common timetable” between May and June each year by a number of boards, so many popular subjects are offered by a variety of competing boards like AQA, CCEA, Edexel, OCR, and WJEC. The boards are supervised by Ofqual, DCELLS (Wales) and CCEA(Ireland). Coursework was always envisaged to be a feature of the GCSE and a new body, the School Examinations and Assessment council, later the QCA, was set up in 1991 to establish and monitor what was an acceptable level of achievement. It is hard to prevent parental help, or indeed too much guidance from the teacher. The development of the GCSE is tied to the debate about selection in Education. Many countries, with the notable exception of Germany, which still retains elements of selective schooling, have moved away from routine selection. Not only was the means of selection questioned (for example an IQ test, or cognitive skills test at a specific age), but the very idea that one child should have advantages denied another child was felt to be wrong. A movement in the UK in the late 50s saw the reduction of gender segregation5, and efforts to ignore the economic background of parents. The elitist system which had existed in the UK until the early 60s allowed for a very small percentage of pupils to follow academic studies in school to the age of 18, and then to progress to Higher Education. Almost 45% of the rest achieved no qualifications6. Today, most students expect to attend University as a
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