Michael Gove attacks decision to re-grade GCSEs in Wales

Teenagers handed better grades as a result of the GCSE marking row will struggle to get a job because qualifications have been “devalued”, according to Michael Gove. The Education Secretary warned that a wholesale re-grading of test papers in Wales was “irresponsible” and would give pupils the false impression of high standards. This is from the Telegraph…

The move – ordered by the Labour-dominated Welsh Assembly – will result in a further “injustice” for pupils by effectively dumbing down their achievements, he said.

Mr Gove also endorsed a decision by Ofqual, the English qualifications regulator, not to replicate the action on the other side of the border, adding that the Welsh decision had “undermined confidence” in GCSEs.

Addressing a cross-party committee of MPs, he said the episode underlined the “flawed” nature of GCSEs, particularly Labour’s decision to break the qualification up into bite-sized modules that pupils can repeatedly re-sit to inflate their grades.

It also underlined the “malign effects” of competition between examination boards which currently compete in a “race to the bottom” to secure business from schools, he warned.

It represents the Education Secretary’s first public comments on the row and raises speculation that the Government will soon announce a decision to scrap GCSEs altogether in favour of tougher new exams for 14- to 16-year-olds.

The controversy erupted after grade boundaries in GCSE English were suddenly raised in exams sat this June compared with those taken in January.

The move led to as many as 67,000 teenagers missing out on C grades – considered a good pass.

Ofqual admitted that grades set in January were too “generous” but insisted those in the summer were accurate.

The crisis took a new twist this week when Leighton Andrews, the Labour education minister in Wales, ordered WJEC – the biggest exam board in the principality – to re-grade all papers sat by Welsh pupils. More than 80,000 candidates taking WJEC exams in England will miss out.

Addressing the Education Select Committee, Mr Gove said the decision represented the “attempted devaluation” of pupils’ grades.

“I think that’s irresponsible and the children who suffer are the children from Wales who, when they apply for a job in England, will hand over certificates which profess to be good passes and English employers will now say, ‘I fear, through no fault of your own [that] your exam pass as equivalent to this other exam pass’,” he said.

It emerged today that Ofqual had written to the Welsh Government, criticising its decision.

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