GCSE exam overhaul ‘risks leading to results day chaos’

After a week in which A level results seem to have worked out reasonably steadily, the Telegraph is reporting that schools are now preparing for potential exam results chaos next week amid warnings an unprecedented overhaul of GCSEs could lead to an alarming dip in grades…

Major changes to qualifications taken by 16-year-olds will combine for the first time this year in a move expected to cause significant “turbulence” in some schools.

The reforms – affecting pupils in England – have been linked to a dramatic increase in the number of pupils requesting special help in the exams hall, including extra time and rest breaks to deal with mounting pressure.

Experts are also predicting a rise in the number of schools set to lodge official appeals against grades. It could exceed levels seen in 2012 when controversy over the marking of GCSEs in English sparked anger in schools…

Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, has said there will be a “number of changes which are bound to affect the detail of how results look”.

Major changes taking effect this year include:

• The abolition of previous exam windows in January and March, forcing all pupils to sit GCSEs at the same time in the summer, preventing them taking the same test twice in one year;

• An effective ban on resitting tests – and entering pupils early for exams – because of new-style league tables that only count pupils’ first attempt in official rankings;

• A reform of GCSEs in English, scrapping marks for teacher-assessed speaking and listening exercises and placing a greater emphasis on the end-of-course exam;

• The introduction of a new, tougher geography GCSE intended to cover the full syllabus;

• A further shift towards traditional disciplines such as foreign languages – which usually result in lower grades – to satisfy government league tables.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there was “a lot of nervousness in schools at every level”.

“It is simply too much for institutions to cope with,” he told the Telegraph. “That’s been the number one complaint from schools. It’s not so much that the direction of travel is necessarily wrong , but there’s a limit to how much change you can cope with…

A survey by the Examination Officers’ Association has found that 69 per cent of examiners reported an increase in pupils requesting special access arrangements such as extra time, rest breaks and the use of laptops this year.

Some attributed it to “pressure to perform in just one exam session with no opportunity to resit until the following year.”

Changes are expected to have a knock-on effect on complaints to exam boards, which have risen every year since 2008…

More at: GCSE exam overhaul ‘risks leading to results day chaos’


Well, expectations are certainly being managed down for next week’s results. Are you worried at how this perfect storm of changes will impact on outcomes or, having been through the exams with your students/children, are you reasonably confident everything will turn out ok? Please let us know your current thinking in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. lucielakin

    SchoolsImprove The horrendous nerves and sick-stomach feeling is starting earlier than usual #gcse2014 #justwantfairness

  2. The_little_pea

    SchoolsImprove Please can we have some stability with big exams. Kids under a lot of pressure without constant change

  3. KathPoulter

    The_little_pea SchoolsImprove Completely agree. It’s so unfair; these kids are working their socks off and the goalposts keep moving.

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