Competing exam boards will be abolished under sweeping reforms to GCSE-level qualifications to be set out by the Coalition next week. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has indicated to MPs that competition between exam boards is driving down standards. The rivalry can have “malign effects” and will be curtailed under the plans expected next week, Mr Gove has suggested. This is from the Telegraph…
The move comes after an undercover investigation by The Daily Telegraph last year revealed exam board officials boasting about how easy their exams were and giving teachers tips on the content of test papers.
It is believed that in future core subjects will be covered by one exam board to address concerns over a “race to the bottom” created by the current rules.
Instead, individual exam boards will compete to provide syllabuses in the core subjects of English, maths and the sciences. Nationwide franchises will be offered for five-year terms, to drive up standards and ensure continuity.
Ministers are also likely to scrap the current two-tier system in which some GCSE students sit easier “foundation” papers while others sit harder “higher tier” exams. The proposals will leave the door open for some lower ability pupils to study newly reformed qualifications over three years rather than two.
Mr Gove’s initial plans to replace GCSEs triggered a row with the Liberal Democrats, who feared it might exclude children of lower ability from disadvantaged backgrounds. Whitehall officials said that dispute had been resolved, and the Coalition parties are thought to be in agreement about the reforms.
David Laws, a close Liberal Democrat ally of Mr Clegg, was last week appointed a minister in Mr Gove’s department and is expected to play a central role in implementing the reforms. Ministers are expected to announce the changes in a consultation document, with new qualifications introduced as early as 2014.