How Gove-Levels Will Put Rigour Back into GCSEs
Byline: James Chapman and Andrew Levy
MICHAEL Gove's new GCSEs will restore rigour and rein in 'rampant' grade inflation, he said yesterday.
Teenagers will be made to study more British history and classic literature by authors such as Austen, Dickens and Wordsworth.
And they will be expected to show a far greater grasp of punctuation and grammar.
Confirming the biggest exam shake-up for a generation, Mr Gove said new GCSEs to be taught from September 2015 will be 'more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous'.
The Education Secretary told MPs that even Labour admitted grades had been inflated during its time in power.
There was now 'widespread consensus that we need to reform our examination system to restore public confidence,' he added. 'Young people in this country deserve an education system that can compete with the best in the world, a system which sets - and achieves - higher expectations.'
His reforms prompted complaints from teaching union leaders, while other critics expressed concern that the Government had cast doubt on the achievements of pupils who will take the current GCSE over the next two years. But Mr Gove insisted an over-reliance on coursework had 'corrupted the credibility of grades' and warned that so many students were now achieving As and A*s that employers could not differentiate between the brightest.
Labour agreed there was a need to reform exam grades, but defended the use of coursework. The new-look GCSEs, which have yet to be named but are being nicknamed 'Gove Levels', will include no coursework except in a small number of areas such as science practicals.
The focus will return to exams at the end of the course.
They will be graded from eight to one, with eight the highest, replacing the current A to G system.
In English literature, candidates will read whole texts including a Shakespeare play, Romantic poetry and modern verse, a 19th century novel and 20th century fiction.
Exams will ask candidates to evaluate seen and unseen texts.
English language will require extended writing to explain, argue and describe events and 20 per cent of marks will be awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar, compared with 12 per cent at present.
The new history exam will feature a minimum of 40 per cent British history, up from 25 per cent at present, and require pupils to show a basic understanding of chronology.
Pupils will have to undertake at least one piece of in-depth study covering either the Medieval period (from the year 500 to 1500), Early Modern period (1450 to 1750) or Modern period (1700 to the present day). At least a quarter of the course will cover the history of the wider world.
In maths, there will be greater emphasis on solving unfamiliar problems by drawing on a range of mathematical skills and concepts.
Teenagers will have to use integers, decimal fractions and simple, proper and improper fractions as well as powers, roots and reciprocals.
In biology, students will need to demonstrate they can understand cell biology, including the growth and development of cells, as well as electron microscopy, including the nucleus, plasmids and chloroplasts.
They will also learn about stem cells, enzymes, the human circulatory system, the development of medicine, photo-synthesis, eco-systems and human reproduction.
And in chemistry, they will have to answer questions on atomic structure and the Periodic Table; the properties of metals; bulk and surface properties of matter including nanoparticles; chemical equations; acid, alkalis and the pH scale; recycling; greenhouse gases and changes to climate over time; and agricultural productivity. Education minister Elizabeth Truss said current exams were 'not fit for purpose'.
She added: 'For too long we have pretended that students' results are getting better, whereas actually all that has been happening is that exams have been getting easier and there has been a race to the bottom between exam boards. …