Nick Gibb: ‘Vague’ qualifications will be thing of the past

Writing in the Telegraph, schools minister Nick Gibb says students can expect to receive a higher standard of qualification as a result of recent and planned reforms.

…We owe it to young people to ensure that the qualifications they sit match the standards of the highest performing systems around the world. In the past, the grades students received were inflating. In 1994, the first year in which the A* was awarded at GCSE, 13% of grades were either A* or A – this proportion increased to 23% by 2010. 

Despite this apparent improvement, real standards were stagnating. In tests taken by 15- and 16-year-olds in 2012, before our education reforms had been implemented, England was the only country in the OECD in which the literacy and numeracy skills of young people were no better than those of their grandparents’ generation: adults aged 55-to-65 performed better in literacy and numeracy than those aged 16-to-24.

From 2010, the Government, working closely with Ofqual, the independent regulator, took swift action to restore rigour to A levels and GCSEs. The option to take AS and A level modules in January has been removed, giving pupils more time to focus on studying the content. At GCSE, pupils are now required to take all exams at the end of their course. These changes give teachers more time to teach, and put an end to the expectation of endless resits. Ofqual has halted inexorable grade inflation, and is introducing a new National Reference Test to provide a reliable measure of standards over time. ..

Further improvements, to be introduced from September, are essential. But thanks to the hard work of students, the support of their teachers, and reforms already introduced, we can be proud that the young people collecting their results on Thursday will be among the best qualified in a generation…

More at: Schools minister: ‘Vague’ qualifications will be thing of the past


There’s much more detail of the changes and Nick Gibb’s rationale for them in the full article.

How do you respond, however, to the overall premise that students getting their results this summer will be receiving a higher standard of qualification than in some time?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy and Secondary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This “news” story amounts to a minister championing their party’s educational reforms. Meaningless drivel from NickGibbMP

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove What NickGibbMP fails to acknowledge is exam systems rely on their reputation; this has been harmed by political tinkering

  3. bjvmoore

    andylutwyche, obviously you use only ‘vague thinking skills’ and have missed the rigour of his evidence-based reasoning

  4. Mktadvice4schls

    SchoolsImprove weird argument re A-levels at least as this cohort took unreformed modular courses (only change since 2008 end of Jan exams)

  5. TristessaMoore

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove NickGibbMP Just what I was going to write but you did it better. Tories only rearranged the deck chairs.

  6. Gibb keeps regurgitating the OECD finding that our young people’s skills are no better than their grandparents.  But he omits the OECD conclusion: this didn’t ‘necessarily’ mean  ‘performance has declined in England/Northern Ireland (UK) … but because it has risen so much faster in so many other countries across successive generations”.  
     In other words, in countries like Korea elders were more likely to have lower levels of literacy/numeracy because of poor education when they were young.  Education had improved in such countries and the young people now perform at a higher level than in the UK (at least in PISA tests).  This would make the “improvement” gap larger than in England/Northern Ireland. 
    The OECD also warned the adult skills survey results should be used with caution because of low response from most of the countries.  I queried the results with the OECD because of non-response.  It stood by the results but still advised caution.  Gibb has, of course, ignored this caveat.

  7. Gibb complains in the full article about unreformed exams testing ‘vague thinking skills’.  But It appears  Gibb’s ‘thinking skills’ are a little vague. So many soundbites: the ‘educational establishment (I’m surprised he didn’t say the ‘Blob’); the repetition of the OECD finding (see below); ‘reforms already introduced’ (except these reforms weren’t in place when this year’s A level pupils started their GCSE courses in 2011/12 – these ‘best qualified in a generation’ would have started secondary education in 2008/09 which is, of course, before the Coalition came to power).

    (I’ve put a version of the above comment and the one below under the DT article posting as ex-SecondaryModernTeacher.)

  8. egaliteacher

    TristessaMoore andylutwyche SchoolsImprove telegraph prints spin rather than real articles with parents left in the dark. Ridiculous

  9. jeografy

    Yes, more none thinking clones to run the factories and work in dead end jobs on Zero hours contracts
    Mission accomplished

  10. jeografy

    Yes, more none thinking clones to run the factories and work in dead end jobs on Zero hours contracts
    Mission accomplished

  11. andylutwyche

    egaliteacher TristessaMoore SchoolsImprove In this particular article’s case I totally agree. I’m sure there are many other examples too

  12. TW

    Standards ‘plummeting down’ was the lie the government used to justify its ‘make schools ready for profit-extraction’ aka the academy programme.  Now it’s only ‘stagnating’.  I suppose it could be said the lying government is now lying a bit less than before.

  13. I have written in more detail about Gibb’s vague thinking skills and the dangerous possibility of a Government agency setting exams here

  14. @TW It was ‘plummeting’ until the UK Statistics Watchdog censured the DfE for its misleading use of international test data.
    The Gov’t can no longer play the ‘plummeting down league tables’ card so it’s moved to ‘stagnating’.  However, it doesn’t say this consistency in PISA tests shows UK 15/16 year-olds are at the OECD average in reading and maths and above average in science.  Nor does it say other international league tables (TIMSS, PIRLS) show England in a more positive light.

  15. MrCregan

    neil_play SchoolsImprove – Qualified for…? I can’t think of a well paid job a school / Uni leaver would not need additional training for

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