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Report
Reforms to GCSE, AS and A level qualifications
September 2014
Reforms to GCSE, AS and A level
qualifications
Changes are being made to GCSE, AS and A level qualifications.
These changes will come into force over the next few years:
September 2015 –teaching begins for first tranche of new GCSEs and
reformed A levels
September 2016 – more subjects start to be taught at both GCSE and A level
September 2017 – remaining subjects start to be taught. Any subjects not
reformed and approved by then will be withdrawn
(see later slides for lists of subjects)
Responsibilities for reform
Government – Department for Education
Decides overall policy on qualifications
Arrangements for content/curriculum development
Ofqual
Responsible for securing overall standards in qualifications
Sets rules for, and monitors, exam board performance
Sets criteria for design of qualifications (eg how they are structured, how they
are assessed) and accepts new qualifications onto the ‘Register for
Regulated Qualifications’
Oversees awarding of GCSEs, AS and A levels to ensure standards are
maintained consistently and fairly
Exam boards
Design and deliver qualifications
Purpose of GCSEs
The primary purpose of new GCSEs is to provide
evidence of students’ achievements against
demanding and fulfilling content, a strong foundation
for further academic and vocational study and
for employment. If required, they should be able to
provide a basis for schools and colleges to be held
accountable for the performance of all their students.
New GCSEs
Intended to be taught from September 2015:
Maths
English language
English literature
Intended to be taught from September 2016:
Geography
Ancient languages
Physical education
History
Computer science
Biology
Modern foreign
languages
Chemistry
Art and design
Design and technology
Physics
Dance
Drama
Double science
Music
Citizenship studies
Religious studies
What will new GCSEs look like?
Structure – linear (not broken into separately assessed units, with all exams
in the summer at the end of the course
(Resits of the whole qualification available in November for GCSEs in maths
and English language only, for those aged 16+)
Assessment – exam where possible, other forms of assessment only where
necessary to assess essential subject skills
Tiered assessments – only where necessary
Grading – new numbered scale from 9 to 1 (plus U), 9 is the highest
Standard – accessible to the same proportion of Key Stage 4 students as at
present
New GCSE grading system
New grading system reflects the step change in expectations of students
Awarding will be done using judgements informed by data, rather than a
criterion or norm referencing approach
National reference test will be used to help identify changes in performance
between cohorts
Ofqual will use the established comparable outcomes approach to manage
risk of unfair disadvantage or advantage to cohorts in first few years of new
GCSEs
New GCSE grading system
Students will achieve grades 1 to 9 (or U) - 9 is the highest
Broadly the same proportion of students will get grade 7 and above as
currently get A & A*
For each examination, the top 20% of those who get 7 or above will get a 9
Grade 5 will be positioned in the top third of marks for a current grade C and
bottom third of marks for a current grade B
Broadly the same proportion of students will get grade 4 and above as
currently achieve a grade C and above
The bottom of grade 1 will align to the bottom of current grade G
Purpose of A level qualifications
A levels should:
define and assess achievement of the knowledge, skills and understanding
which will be needed by students planning to progress to undergraduate
study at a UK higher education establishment, particularly (although not only)
in the same subject area a strong foundation for further academic and
vocational study and for employment
set out a robust and internationally comparable post-16 academic course of
study to develop that knowledge, skills and understanding
permit UK universities to accurately identify the level of attainment of students
provide a basis for school and college accountability measures at age 18 and
provide a benchmark of academic ability for employers
Reformed AS and A levels
Intended to be taught from September 2015:
English language
Computer science
English literature
Business
English language and literature
History
Biology
Art and design
Chemistry
Economics
Physics
Sociology
Psychology
New AS qualifications will be introduced at the same time as each
reformed A level is introduced
– Eg AS physics will be taught from September 2015, AS geography from
September 2016
Reformed AS and A levels
Intended to be taught from September 2016:
Maths and further maths
Drama and theatre
Geography
Dance
Modern foreign languages
Music
Ancient languages
Physical education
Religious studies
Intended to be taught from September 2017:
Any remaining subjects
Ofqual has consulted on and is currently considering how content for any
remaining subjects should be developed (where the DfE is not leading on
content development) and on the expectations for subjects to continue as A
levels
What will reformed A levels look like?
Structure – all exams in the summer at the end of the course
Assessment – exam where possible, other forms of assessment only where
necessary to assess essential subjects skills
Grading – staying the same as now, A*- E (& U)
Demand – same level of challenge as current A levels
What will reformed AS qualifications look
like?
New AS qualifications will be introduced at the same time as each
reformed A level is introduced
Standalone – new AS will not count towards an A level grade
Assessment – by exam only at the end of the course, using other forms of
assessment only where necessary to assess essential
subjects skills
Co-teachable – exam boards can design the standalone AS to be taught
alongside first year of A level where possible
Grading – staying the same as now, A - E (& U)
Demand – new AS will have same level of challenge as current AS
Summary of assessment proposals – part 1
Subject
GCSE
Current
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
Ancient languages
Art and design
Computer science
Dance
A level
Proposed
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
N/A
AS qualification
Current
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
Proposed
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
Current
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
Proposed
weighting of
non-exam
assessment
None
None
None
None
100%
100%
N/A
N/A
25–60%
20%
N/A
N/A
80%
60%
60%
50%
55%
50%
Further mathematics
N/A
0–20%
None
0–20%
None
Geography
N/A
None
20%
None
None
Mathematics
N/A
0–20%
None
0–20%
None
Modern foreign
languages
N/A
30–40%
30%
30–40%8
30%
Music
Physical education
60–80%
60%
60–70%
60%
60–70%
60%
60%
30%
35–50%
30%
35–50%
30%
Summary of assessment proposals – part 2
GCSE
Subject
A level
AS qualification
Current
Proposed
Current
Proposed
Current
Proposed
weighting of
weighting of
weighting of
weighting of
weighting of
weighting of
non-exam
non-exam
non-exam
non-exam
non-exam
non-exam
assessment
assessment
assessment
assessment
assessment
assessment
Citizenship
studies
60%
0%
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
50%
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
60%
50%
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
60−100%
60%
40−70%
60%
40−100%
60%
Cooking and
nutrition
Design and
technology
Drama
The range of GCSE and A level/AS subjects
• Government determines the content for some GCSE
subjects
• Government takes an interest, together with HE, in the
content of some A level/AS subjects
• Each exam boards decides whether or not to develop
GCSEs, A levels and AS qualifications in the subjects.
What about other subjects?
• We consulted on a proposal that there should be a process for
subjects that government has not already proposed content for
• We proposed where there is a GCSE or A level/AS in a subject
all exam boards should use the same content, to help secure
comparability, understanding and confidence. They should cooperate to develop the content and consult widely
• Exam boards each decide in which subjects they wish to offer
GCSEs and A levels
• No guarantee they will wish to develop new GCSEs and A
levels in the full range of subjects currently available
Our proposal
• GCSEs, A levels and AS qualifications should only be developed
where:
• The subject is distinct from others – leading to some detailed
proposals on subjects that are similar to reformed subjects
• The qualification will fulfil the GCSE/A level purpose
• Performance can be differentiated using the full grading scale
• The qualification will be at an appropriate level of demand
• The content can be validly assessed
Impact on availability
We also proposed:
• Only new GCSEs and reformed A levels should be available for
students starting their courses in September 2017
• This will minimise the period during which there is dual running
of new/reformed and ‘legacy’ qualifications
• We are considering our response to the consultation and will
announce our decisions shortly
Consultation events
Ofqual is looking to run some subject-specific events to support the
consultation currently running at:
http://comment.ofqual.gov.uk/developing-new-qualifications-for-2016-part-2/
– The subjects in this consultation are
- GCSEs in citizenship studies, design and technology, cooking and
nutrition, drama
- A level in drama and theatre
To help Ofqual understand potential demand for these events, there is a short
survey to complete at:
http://surveys.ofqual.gov.uk/s3/eventsforfirstteaching2016september
The closing date for this survey is 3rd October.
Find out more
Visit
www.ofqual.gov.uk/qualifications-and-assessments/qualification-reform/
Questions?
call Ofqual’s helpdesk – 0300 303 3346
email – [email protected]
tweet – @ofqual
For more information on curriculum and content, contact the Department
for Education
www.gov.uk/dfe

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