Reforms to GCSEs and A Levels

There are some important reforms being made to both GCSEs and A levels in England at the moment.

GCSE reforms
From next year, GCSE students in England will take all their assessments at the end of their course. Moving to this linear-type structure means that re-sit opportunities will be limited and students who wish to re-take GCSEs will generally only be able to do so the following summer. The exception is for GCSE English, English Language and Mathematics: students who want to re-take these subjects will be able to do so in November. From 2014 the November series is for re-sits only and not first time candidates. Therefore, GCSEs will become linear in design, with the modular design removed and assessments only taking place in the summer.

There is also a proposed change to how GCSE results are described, with a scale of 1 to 9 used instead of the current grading structure. In my opinion this is a mistake and needs to be reconsidered. New qualifications in English language, English literature, mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, science (double award), geography and history will be ready for teaching from September 2015 and for first awarding in summer 2017.

A levels reforms
From September 2013 students in England were longer be able to sit exams in January, in either their first or second year of A level studies, because of evidence that this has created a ‘resit culture’. A levels are still examined by unit, but all exams will be taken in the summer, which is going to put more pressure on students taking exams.

The curriculum content requirements of current A levels are being reviewed by exam boards, using feedback from higher education and the views of teachers and learned societies, as a result of Government proposals. Exam boards offering A levels in England are reviewing the content in mathematics and further mathematics, English (language, literature, language and literature), physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, psychology, art and design, business studies, computing, economics, and sociology.

The reforms will also see the introduction of a standalone AS qualification that is “de-coupled” from an A level, so that results from the new AS will not contribute to the full A level qualification. These qualifications will be available to schools and colleges in autumn 2014 and to be ready for first teaching in September 2015. This could lead to some interesting discussions. For example, would it be possible to complete an A2 Level without having done the AS Level?

Further details can be found here

We will ensure that all our EIKS programmes are updated in line with these proposals. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops.

Dr Jon Cartmell

EIKS Director of Curriculum