Fall in science and maths GCSE grades after Gove gets tough

The Sunday Times has reported that government is facing a row with teachers and unions over a fall in vital GCSE exam results after years of rising grades…

…The change follows demands from Michael Gove, the education secretary, for the exam boards to set harder A-levels and GCSEs to counter complaints that they have become too easy. This week the A-level pass rate will plateau before it begins to fall under reforms ordered by Gove to make the exam harder, including a ban on re-sits and huge reductions in coursework.

The unions are considering a legal challenge if they believe the results have been distorted by Gove’s “unfair” interference with GCSE standards, which they say could penalise thousands of candidates and damage their prospects.

“It isn’t fair because a B grade last year and a B grade this year may not be the same, but employers won’t understand that, in 2013, exams were made more difficult,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“We are ready if necessary to question the results with the regulator, the chair of the Commons select committee and Michael Gove. We do not rule out a legal challenge.”

Since 2000, the proportion of children gaining a C grade or higher at maths GCSE has risen by about 1% a year, from 49.2% to 58.4% in 2012, when they levelled off. There has been a similar increase in the science subjects.

One exam board chief confirmed that after being asked to raise standards in GCSE science, regulators were expecting a lower percentage of children to get grade C or above this year. Some schools could see big drops in standards.

In maths, examiners have been told to raise pass marks in some syllabuses because of concerns that the grade boundaries last year were “set at such low marks” that pupils were given grades that their work did not deserve.

In English GCSE, head teachers warned that they were unable to give pupils accurate grade predictions this year following the last-minute raising of pass marks by exam boards last year. The higher grade boundaries imposed by the boards caused outrage in schools as thousands of pupils failed to secure predicted A to C grades. It prompted teacher unions and councils to mount a legal challenge against Ofqual and the exam boards that was ultimately unsuccessful.

Gareth Pierce, chief executive of the WJEC exam board, defended the tightening of exam standards. Asked whether it was fair for a child who might have got a B grade in science in previous years to find it more difficult to get the same result this year, he said: “The changes are linked to the importance of ensuring the credibility of GCSEs and hence their standards. Taking these actions will really protect the value of GCSEs and A-levels, which is a fair path for ministers and regulators to pursue.”

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times this weekend found that most people supported Gove’s tough stance: 41% of those polled said A-levels had become easier over the past 10 years. More than half — 53% — agreed that it was right to introduce a tougher exam regime.

More at:  Fall in science and maths GCSE grades after Gove gets tough (subscription required)

Are the complaints that tightening the requirements are unfair credible when few made the same comments when grades were going up every year – surely that was equally unfair, but to those who sat the exams in previous years? Or is this the wrong way to tackle the issue? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Secondary.

Comments

  1. Yorkshire_Steve

    oldandrewuk The change in science has been well known for 2 years. Ofqual have been explicit about the change in sciences grades coming.

  2. Yorkshire_Steve

    oldandrewuk The maths one is different as no such pronouncements have been made & it suggests that ofqual failed in their duties last year

      • Yorkshire_Steve

        oldandrewuk ofqual Comparable outcomes? I think this yr group had slightly weaker ks2 results so comp outcomes dictates weaker GCSE.

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual My point is simply that there’s a difference between schools having to accept lower grades because of a…

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual …an exam that’s been deliberately made harder, & having to accept it because grade inflation has stopped.

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual Last year people seemed oblivious to the fact that if pass rates are to remain roughly constant then roughly…

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual …half of schools could expect pass rates to fall and that if everyone gamed an exam then it wouldn’t work.

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk ofqual Thinking of the article where it says GCSE maths bounds were set too low last year & corrected this year. That’s not CO

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk ofqual Thinking of the article where it says GCSE maths bounds were set too low last year & corrected this year. That’s not CO

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk March results – we experienced linear was much easier to get a C on than modular. So much so we wrote to ofqual with concerns.

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk March results – we experienced linear was much easier to get a C on than modular. So much so we wrote to ofqual with concerns.

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk March results – we experienced linear was much easier to get a C on than modular. So much so we wrote to ofqual with concerns.

        • Yorkshire_Steve

          oldandrewuk ofqual Under promise – over deliver? Suggest results will be way down and when they only a bit people are relieved? Cunning!

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual If people generally expect results to be down, and then half aren’t, it’s less of a shock.

        • oldandrewuk

          Yorkshire_Steve ofqual If people generally expect results to be down, and then half aren’t, it’s less of a shock.

      • Yorkshire_Steve

        oldandrewuk ofqual Of course this cohort were the ones who sat KS2 in the year of the big KS2 marking meltdown so reliability an issue?

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Interested to see how this works in maths because certain topics equate to specific grades; legal challenge could have legs

  4. KathPoulter

    SchoolsImprove ~ not just to her but to all the students who have worked their backsides off in the past 2 years. Unfair on teachers too.

  5. Govebuster

    SchoolsImprove just for a change lets play blame the teachers bingo, you first you have more followers than me #bingoblame

  6. katherineswilde

    SchoolsImprove absolutely, there’s no acknowledgement of the fact that teaching has improved to help children get higher grades!

  7. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove It wouldn’t do to actually praise teachers for helping students get higher grades – exams must be getting easier

  8. edujdw

    SchoolsImprove so another Tory success, more children fail, more room for the rich at Russell group universities.

  9. edujdw

    SchoolsImprove so another Tory success, more children fail, more room for the rich at Russell group universities.

  10. magicmacdougal

    SchoolsImprove yet again Mr Gove and his ego know best and it will be working class children that suffer when their A becomes a B!

  11. magicmacdougal

    SchoolsImprove waiting with low expectation for S Twigg shadow edu when he leaps to the defense of young people damaged by Gove

  12. LS_Herts

    SchoolsImprove Except that changes to A*, A and B grade boundaries were minimal (Edexcel) so only those at C/D and below were hit #SLTchat

  13. LS_Herts

    SchoolsImprove H: A* +1 A +3 B +2 C +1. F: C +13 D +11 E +10 F +8 G +6. So tougher for CERTAIN students to get grades they were aiming for.

  14. BramRaider

    SchoolsImprove Maths passes for Y11 pupils at grades A* to C actually increased. Media wants sound-bites for their readers/listeners.

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