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News - 14 June 2013

Tougher GCSE exams revealed

From 2015, GCSEs will move from coursework and continuous assessment to exams at the end of two years, which will be graded from eight to one rather than A* to G.

Pupils will face more rigorous content, with those studying English, for example, having to read a 19th-Century novel and a whole Shakespeare play.

Key changes from autumn 2015

  • Grading by numbers 8-1 rather than by the current letters A*-G
  • No more modular courses, instead full exams taken at the end of two years
  • Controlled assessments (coursework done under exam conditions) will be scrapped
  • Exams to be based on a more stretching, essay-based system
  • Pass mark to be pushed higher

The changes to GCSEs in England will be presented by exam regulator Ofqual who will explain how the exams will be structured and ministers will give details of the course content.

The reforms will initially apply to a group of core subjects - English language and literature, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, combined science, history and geography.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils will begin studying these revised GCSEs from autumn 2015 and the first candidates to take the exams will be in summer 2017.

The pass mark will be pushed higher, with claims that it will be pitched at the level of the highest-performing school systems, such as Finland and Shanghai, which have topped international rankings.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) accused the government of not consulting properly on the changes.

Christine Blower, head of the NUT said: "We all want children and young people to be extraordinarily well taught and to do the very best that they can but you don't just do that by, in a rapid way, changing the whole basis of the system.”

Wales and Northern Ireland are keeping GCSEs, but so far are not adopting the changes proposed for England.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“The latest plans will be put out to consultation over the summer, with a timetable that will see the exam boards preparing to produce courses that can be accredited by Ofqual to be taught in schools from autumn 2015. These changes are for exams in England. The prospect of different forms of GCSEs in Wales and Northern Ireland has raised the question of how they will be distinguished from each other.

Labour's shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg attacked the proposals.
"Pupils and parents will be concerned by the uncertainty that Michael Gove has created around GCSEs. Having first talked down their value and then failed in his attempt to scrap them, the education secretary is having another go at setting out his plans."

But a senior Department for Education source said: "We are reversing the devaluation of the exam system that Labour and the unions encouraged. The source added: "Exams will test higher level skills - such as more essay writing, problem-solving and mathematical modelling - that universities and businesses desperately need."

If you need any help and advice with Free Schools, Academy Schools or Charities, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail:

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