Genuinely worried about Y7 DS and Gove's new 'O' levels...

(81 Posts)
Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 09:04:26


DS stands a good chance of getting the golden 5 GCSEs inc Eng and Maths, providing I apply constant, low-grade pressure to him, as will his school, to help him achieve this. He always puts in top effort but simply isn't particularly academically gifted.

I can confidently say he will fail 'tougher exams'. He will be unable to access a 6th form (given that they aren't just about A levels alone, any more), or an apprenticeship.

Unfortunately, having dodged the bullet of Gove's 'new style' GCSEs as proposed a few months ago with his year as the guinea pigs, here we go again. If this gets toppled, Gove has, on his 'new education overhaul plan, issued every 6 months' average, 4 more chances to fuck up my child's educational future.

As DS will be in this guinea pig year, and we can be absolutely sure Gove will insist that the results demonstrate 'new rigour' i.e. fewer passes, there are unlikely to be any 'alternatives' in place to help DS and similar DC on their way- I mean, like the current slow but steady growth of higher level apprenticeships and so forth springing up to accept the DC who can no longer take the risk of the debts of a university degree without guaranteed, reasonably well paid at the end. One Day One of our DCs' emerging, blinking, from this brave new tough-GCSE world, where they, as a result of their 'fails', cannot access 6th form or apprenticeships (as these colleges will be a good year or so, minimum, behind performing the entrance requirement 'regrade' they'll have to do to get kids through their gates)- what will become of them? No amount of media hand-wringing or cold, sober analysis of the first year of results will compensate our DCs for the educational dead end they may find themselves at, all as a result of a trumped up, egotistical, arrogant, self-aggrandising Minister who rides roughshod over decades of hard-won, evidence-based 'good practice' to force a nation's state-educated children emulate what he sees as being his own, unsurpassable 'education'.

DeWe Tue 11-Jun-13 09:23:24

If you read down the article, it's starting studying them in 2015, the first set of exams will be in 2017, so he won't do them.

Dd1 is year 7 and the one exam at the end would suit her much more, so would have quite liked her to do it. It will be in though for dd2 who would suit the old system better.

CatherineofMumbles Tue 11-Jun-13 09:28:32

Another Gove bashing thread. So predictable.

mumsneedwine Tue 11-Jun-13 09:38:27

The current year 7 will be the first year to take them. I am going to wait and see what is actually being proposed, but if its one exam then a lot of kids are going to get very low marks. You are right, Gove will ensure they are marked v hard and top grade boundaries will be limited. BUT he might not be there in 2017 so who knows ???

Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 09:38:41

Catherine- where are your counter-arguments? Your evidence-based rebuttals? Your carefully crafted deconstructions and explanations?

Same place as Gove's are? From the same stable as Gove-think?


annh Tue 11-Jun-13 09:51:39

I have a Yr7 ds as well and am sick of our children being used as political pawns by Gove. While his older brother would do well with single end of year exams, ds2 will struggle. It would help if he had always worked to this system but his entire school career so far has been based on modular topics, coursework and project-based homework. I'm not saying that is right or wrong or that there shouldn't be more rigour in the exams but ds2 has simply never been taught in that fashion and is going to struggle hugely to turn his mind-set around to this! It's a completely different method of learning and examination for which our children have not been prepared. You might think that four years should be enough to get them into this frame of mind but given that there have been so many u-turns, and undoubtedly more to come, I don't think schools even know what they should be teaching or how to go about it!

titchy Tue 11-Jun-13 09:53:07

DEwe - do the maths - year 7s will be taking their exams in 2017!!!

slug Tue 11-Jun-13 10:18:12

The new GCSEs will favour boys anyway.

<<conspiracy theory alert>>

It's well acknowledged in teaching circles that coursework favours girls. They are, as a rule, socialised to be more compliant and are far easier to squeeze coursework out of. I can only speak from 12 years experience teaching GCSEs but in my experience, girls will produce something for coursework. The students who are reluctant, slow or provide something skeletal at the last possible moment are almost invariably boys. Consequently girls tend to go into the exams with a better buffer of grades. Boys, on the other hand, tend (and this is only a tendency) to be better at pulling something out of the hat when it comes to exams. (I don't think exams were designed by someone who ever had to sit through several hours of concentration with period pains or a heavy bleed.)

There has been an increasing moral panic about the way boys grades have been dropping in comparison to boys. By eliminating the part of the qualification that favours girls, I wonder if the grade average of boys will improve?

<<dons hard hat>>

<<admits cynicism after too many years at the chalk face>>

mumsneedwine Tue 11-Jun-13 10:36:19

Slug, I had the exact same thought ! We have had meeting in school this morning and now all busy researching IGCSEs for 2017. Ah the mess this is going to cause - so many different exams in one country is going to be ridiculous.
My poor year 10s are so confused as their exam has been changed half way through.
I have has 14 emails this morning on new directives on current exams for next year.
Leave it alone politicians and just let the kids learn. Teachers do know what they are doing (contrary to Gove's opinion).
If he had ever done it for a living then maybe I would have some respect. I heard that other idiot with the free school in London the other day saying how lazy tea we were, what with a day of 9-3 and all those holidays. I work 50hrs a week in term time (& I am part time on a .5) and have 4 weeks holiday a year.

Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 11:37:07

Re boys v. girls; our (highly regarded, v. MC!) comp has managed to keep the boys up with the girls' performance during the years of modularity. Though I have boys, I very much hope this same school can suddenly do an about face, chuck out all the years of focused experience they've accrued in finding out and utilising how to keep boys 'up to speed' in coursework based GCSEs- and suddenly, out of the blue, instantaneously come up with a way of keeping the girls' performance up with the boys in the new style linear GCSEs.

Good luck with that.

Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 11:38:23

mumsneedwine - are you saying your school is looking at changing from GCSEs altogether in favour of iGCSEs?

TeenAndTween Tue 11-Jun-13 12:10:42

My DD1 is currently in y9 so will be one of the last to take GCSEs.
- she won't be one of the first years in the new system while they bed it down
- the imo crazy system for some of the controlled assessments suits her learning ability
- having exams / controlled assessments spread out does take off some pressure in the final summer

- the crazy system for some of the controlled assessments means that she won't be learning as many useful skills as under the new system.
- having exams / controlled assessments spread out means constant pressure throughout Y10 & Y11.
- slow starters, like my DD, have to be performing from early Y10 in their controlled assessments

What do I mean re crazy system for controlled assessments?
- for languages, as far as I can tell, the written paper is prepared in advance, corrected by the teacher, learned off by heart, and then reproduced in controlled conditions.
- for languages, the oral is prepared in advance, learned off by heart, spouted out for the exam, followed up with 1 non-prepared questions and answer.
- similarly for some aspects of English GCSE
To me this doesn't make sense.

I also think distinguishing A/A* into more levels make sense seeing as how many A/A* are currently awarded. (Not that i am anticipating my DD getting any).

I agree re concerns on college applications, as there is no guarantee that the new 4 (or whatever) will equate to the old C. With my optimistic side however I hope that colleges may be a bit more flexible on their entrance criteria, as after all they want to fill their courses.

lainiekazan Tue 11-Jun-13 12:25:00

Agreed. The controlled assessments are farcical.

And I've just been looking at a practice Gcse chemistry paper with ds and I simply can't believe how easy it is - little real science. I could do the paper based on general knowledge - I have no science background at all.

scaevola Tue 11-Jun-13 12:26:44

Well, there have been a number of changes since GCSEs were introduced by the Thatcher government, so that some cohorts of children were the first ('guinea pigs') is a regular occurrence.

The style of exam being propsed doesn't worry me, and I suspect not many my age, as they are going to be so similar to O level/CSE, and we know by our own experiencearhat passing 9 or so exams by final papers over three or so weeks one summer is achievable.

What worries me is wider governmental competence. The Thatcher government trialled, refined and re-piloted the new GCSE for several years before rolling it out, and that was a government which was generally more administratively competent than its successors. This lot do not seem to be able to execute policy at an adequate standard - neither did New Labour, so there is a too-long legacy of bumbling through, rather than rigour, and that afflicts current mandarins as much as those in government.

mumsneedwine Tue 11-Jun-13 12:39:49

Yes, we are looking at all iGCSE. It changes less and is a more stable exam.
I liked the post that says there have been 'some changes' ! There have been hundreds !!!!! This year alone there were numerous changes to curriculum, exam procedures and grade boundaries. Some are good but a lot are just knee jerk changes which will be changed again next year. It's bonkers. I do agree that exams had become too easy in some areas but why not just make them harder ?? Why so many changes ? Poor kids - who wants to be the first year to take these. First year of GCSE was a nightmare.

prh47bridge Tue 11-Jun-13 13:32:18

why not just make them harder

Politics, I think.

Changing the name of the exam and moving from lettered grades to numbered grades signals a break with the past more clearly than simply making the exams harder. It also covers up the fact that not much else is changing - modular GCSEs were already being phased out and controlled assessment was already being reduced. So if you take away the name changes all that was really announced today is that they are making the exams harder in some subjects. That probably wouldn't have got much coverage in the press on its own. Re-announcing some existing changes and throwing in a name change results in far more column inches.

He will be unable to access a 6th form (given that they aren't just about A levels alone, any more), or an apprenticeship

I think you are assuming the grades required to access these things will remain the same. If fewer pupils achieve top grades on the new exams 6th forms and other providers will either have to lower their entry requirement or have fewer students. Since fewer students equals lower income my guess is that the overwhelming majority will lower their entry requirement.

chicaguapa Tue 11-Jun-13 13:46:04

This new GCSE is just the EBacc but with a different name. I don't think he's changed anything at all from the failed proposals that he supposedly did a u-turn on. hmm

I am astonished as to why he's still in the post given that he's received a vote of no confidence from three teaching unions, including the headteachers who rarely get involved in politics. And yet no-one's taking any notice and he's still there!

as a result of a trumped up, egotistical, arrogant, self-aggrandising Minister who rides roughshod over decades of hard-won, evidence-based 'good practice' to force a nation's state-educated children emulate what he sees as being his own, unsurpassable 'education'

Funny how he wants to emulate something that didn't provide him with the tools to do his job properly, isn't it? hmm

Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 13:53:13

grin chica

prh - I think the issue will be that how can the 6th from colleges and apprenticeship providers set 'an entry level' when they don't know what, exactly, is being tested, how it is being tested, let alone if it's even going to be possible to 'do an equivalence' between GCSE 'A-E' and GCSE '8-1'? Especially bearing in mind this government has worked hard to stamp out 'equivalence'?

I foresee that our DC will all be given really, really provisional offers and there'll be a lot of surprises and upsets.

retiredgoth2 Tue 11-Jun-13 13:55:38

Move to Wales??

(They have said NO to Gove levels...)

Also concerned- as my twins are also year 7. The only non special needs kids from a total of six- so I am perhaps over invested in them...

Ruffello Tue 11-Jun-13 14:14:33

In English literature, responding to concerns that pupils were only reading chunks of books, the exam questions will be designed to ensure that pupils have read the full work.
The course content will include at least one play by Shakespeare, a selection of work by the Romantic poets, a 19th Century novel, a selection of poetry since 1850 and a 20th Century novel or drama.
I agree with the proposed changes to English Lit. My love of literature and reading stemmed directly from the in depth analysis of 4 whole works ranging from Shakespeare to Steinbeck when I did my O levels back in the 70s. Neither of my DCs had to read a book in its entirety for English GCSE, which I still find bizarre, and neither of them have any interest in reading for pleasure now.

hardboiled Tue 11-Jun-13 17:08:33

I am not a Give supporter, but the boys-girls conspiracy theory is very silly.
As a mother of a boy who works hard all year and produces good course work and as a woman who found it easy to nail a final exam, I find this gender comparisons tiring and boring.

hardboiled Tue 11-Jun-13 17:09:29

Gove not give.

tiggytape Tue 11-Jun-13 17:13:43

My DS is Year 7 too.
I think my worry is that schools aren't geared up for this in terms of attitude or experience. My DS's school is very much into projects, there are few end of year exams, they dip in and out of English texts much more often than they read whole works and there's lot of focus on group work. None of this is going to be particularly relevant to the new style exam system.

DS will definitely do much better at final exams than course work or assessments but I am still worried that it will represent such a huge shift in school attitudes and approaches that some subjects might manage preparing students for this better than others.

Also am I the only one that assumed a 1 would be better than an 8 in the new grading system - it seems back to front to me (since normally an A1 in anything is the best and an E5 is the worst)

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 11-Jun-13 17:37:58

90% of the kids at DS's school got GCSE grade A in the core subjects in 2012. Clearly the exams as it stands aren't challenging for some kids.

I'm sorry that some of your DCs will go from an expected 'B' to a 5 or a 6 but the exams being more difficult for your DC to get a high sounding mark isn't really a valid argument.

Copthallresident Tue 11-Jun-13 17:48:26

ruffello you were pretty unique in my experience, memorising and regurgitate great chunks of stuff out of Cole's notes was quite enough to get a 1 in my 70s English Lit O Level, AND a B at A level, (which of course in the nostalgic world of illusions of superiority is an A* in the modern currency) and the exams only got in the way of actually engaging with the text. My DDs have had to really engage with the text and be able to apply skills of literacy criticism even at GCSE and I could not have begun at 17 how Hardy's work reflects the conflict he felt between Darwinism and the primitive relationship with nature. I am quite sue you couldn't either, because the importance of contextual analysis was not appreciated then. Fascinating though smile

Copthallresident Tue 11-Jun-13 17:50:05

Nor was I constantly mis corrected by an annoying ipad!!

prh47bridge Tue 11-Jun-13 17:57:50

Erebus - I agree it will take a year or two for providers of 16+ education to figure out how they are affected. However, I doubt it will lead to a massive increase in conditional offers. I would expect them to start with offers as if nothing has changed (e.g. 8 is the same as A*, 7 is the same as A and so on) then figure out how many places they have left over to offer to others.

The "equivalence" the Government is against is the long list of qualifications that are supposedly equivalent to a GCSE, so, for example, a level 2 certificate in "nail technology services" is no longer equivalent to two GCSEs. That has nothing to do with how the grades in the new exam relate to existing GCSE grades. As there are the same number of grades for the new exam an obvious starting point for those looking at these grades is to assume direct equivalence then, with experience, figure out how much tougher the new exams are. It is, of course, possible that the exam boards will help by estimating what proportion of pupils will get each grade. We already know what proportion get each GCSE grade so that would allow those interested to work out a rough equivalence.

tiredaftertwo Tue 11-Jun-13 18:18:25

Modules being sat early is already over, coursework has mostly gone, and some CAs are staying as I understand it (in sciences?). A large component has always been old style exams at the end of the course, so it is just shifting the balance further - your year 7 will have been taught to do these under the current system.

Really it is not that big a change in terms of format. I hope though they take the chance to cut down on the number of papers given they are all terminal - the current year 9s who are caught in the middle will have to sit the old number of papers, but all at once.

I think Gove had to do something, because he made some important format and timing changes without changing the name of the exam or the content, so now has to overcompensate by shouting about those.

It seems a very tight timetable to me, and I can't write what I think of him on a public forum, and this government generally seems peculiarly incompetent. But I wouldn't worry that children will not know how to deal with exams, they have been doing them in the meantime, and their teachers have been preparing them smile.

Suzieismyname Tue 11-Jun-13 18:32:04

tiggy I've read somewhere that they want 8 to be the best grade so there is room to add another grade later if necessary.

I agree with slug about girls/boys. This is purely anecdotal but I was a girl who performed extremely well in linear exams and was extremely lucky that the worst period of my life happened a week after my exams!

EvilTwins Tue 11-Jun-13 18:53:00

What's irritated me most about today is smug Liz Truss on BBC breakfast this morning saying, in her silly sing-song voice "we all know that the reason exam results have gone up is that we have been pretending that children have got better, but actually the exams have just got easier" and then going on to say that the new exams will be much more rigorous, unlike the current exams, which are a piece of piss (paraphrasing there) Then I got to school and felt immediately gutted for our poor Yr 11s who were sitting GCSE maths this morning. Hope none of them tuned in to Ms Truss pointing out that their results, no matter how good, won't be worth the paper they're written on. Brilliant timing for announcing that current GCSEs are unworthy.

Ruffello Tue 11-Jun-13 18:53:10

Copthall - I doubt I was unique in developing a love of literature from reading my GCSE set books in their entirety and certainly didn't mean to imply 'illusions of superiority' - all I was suggesting is that reading and analysing chunks of text is not the same as reading a whole work. There is clearly merit in analysis, but I'm not sure the example you give would have made me want to read all of Hardy's work in the way that reading Far From The Madding Crowd for GCSE did.

mumsneedwine Tue 11-Jun-13 19:00:33

I had a laugh when he said that the details would be finalised 'soon'. We are already preparing Year 7 for their future exams, and base their learning in KS3 to endure they have covered everything needed for success in KS4. Now if we don't know what they are exactly going to be examined on at 16 how are we supposed to ensure there are no gaps ? Oh and we already teach the things he mentioned today so bit of a loss to understand what he is planning. There are already linear exams with no course work - they are called GCSEs. And this year only 0.3% of students got an A* in biology so they have already been made more rigorous.
Poor kids today going into their maths exam said they didn't see the point as everyone thinks their exams are worthless. Having seen the trig question on the paper I would totally disagree !!

Ladymuck Tue 11-Jun-13 19:10:55

Well there are a number of schools already teaching the GCSE syllabus over 3 years not 2, so I do hope that the details get thrashed out soon, as teaching needs to start in just over a year from now.

To be honest i don't think that 16+ educators are going to be totally baffled as they seem to have managed to juggle a bizarre number of "GCSE-equivalent" qualifications for some years. DS1's school already do iGCSE in a majority of subjects, so I guess may continue with that until the new system is fully in and bedded down. I do think that there is a risk for the first year sitting in that there is no precedent for that format of exam plus change in content, and it will be interesting to see how the process is managed, especially as we will have a change of Government by then.

ReallyTired Tue 11-Jun-13 19:17:22

My son is in year 6 and he was the grammar test guinea pig and its seems harsh that he might end up being the GCSE replacement guinea pig.

Personally I feel that GCSEs and A-levels are pass their sale by date and not fit for purpose. Our children will all be staying on at school until 18 and is there really any need for an exam at 16?

However any reform needs to be well thought out. Prehaps the recommendations of the Tomlinson enquiry could be implemented.

Copthallresident Tue 11-Jun-13 21:22:48

Ruffello Well I am pleased to hear that you developed a love of Hardy, are you sure it wasn't helped by Julie Christie and Terence Stamp wink but for me O level was more inoculation than inspiration.

I was actually referring to my DD aged 17 and doing AS being already equipped with not just the love but also the skills and awareness to appreciate all the layers of meaning in Hardy 's novels, perhaps you should do the Oxford continuing Education course on Hardy, you might discover how those skills do enrich your enjoyment. He was grappling with issues that arose out of an acceptance of nature as a scientific entity rather than the manifestation of a greater benevolent power and the natural primitive values of societies rooted in the land versus those of industrialised "civilisation". You are missing so much if you don't understand what fundamentally drove his plots eg the fates of Troy, Bathsheba and Oak, and especially his language. Something we never had chance to appreciate while regurgitating large chunks of text to highlight the more facile and obvious themes.

In fact neither DD studied any of their texts partially, An Inspector Calls, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, Enduring Love, a book of nineteenth century short stories by female authors...

I have spent my life loving History and Literature and Drama and I'm now involved in postgrad cross disciplinary study, but all in spite of O levels. GCSE equipped my daughters far better both with the love and skills to study both.

But then the love I like to think came from all the reading to them, the discussing of books and plays together, their study of literature in school from year s 1 to 9, the teachers who inspired them, that thing known as education, not he narrow preparation for GCSE and certainly not the preparation that will be required by the increased emphasis on regurgitating huge amounts of factual information Gove is so keen on.

Gove has shafted my DDs GCSE cohort but I am just grateful she will be well clear and her education in the hands of university academics not politicians by the time these proposals play out.

savoirfaire Tue 11-Jun-13 22:47:13

I am a bit confused by the removal of coursework. I understand the need for end of course exams, however I have always understood coursework to be a very valuable part of learning, being quite akin to many of the types of skills needed in a professional context. I never have to 'cram for an exam' in my professional world. However, I regularly have to research, analyse and then write up in long form. Where will students get those skills now?

muminlondon Tue 11-Jun-13 23:16:15

Just trying to find out more about the gender issue - by the 1980s girls did slightly better than boys in terms of passing 5 O-Levels (according the chart on p.22) and did particularly well at English. But only 30% of all pupils were passing 5 GCSEs by 1988.

I'm more bothered by this counter-intuitive grading system than the form of assessment (which is changing anyway). What will be the minimum grade for a pass? I am also worried the whole process will be rushed. And I don't remember 3-hour exams for O-levels - most were 2.5 hours.

prh47bridge Tue 11-Jun-13 23:40:35

Has he actually said 3 hours? Genuine question. I haven't seen that in the reports I've read but maybe I've read the wrong reports.

On the gender issue, I've seen a number of studies some of which think girls do better when there is a significant coursework element, others conclude that there is no gender effect. Make of that what you will.

savoir-faire - The perceived problem with coursework as part of GCSEs is that it is susceptible to cheating. I didn't have any coursework when I did my O-levels but I still practised the skills you talk about. How else would I have been prepared for the essays I was expected to produce during the exams?

needanewnickname Tue 11-Jun-13 23:44:43

Savoir, I think the difficulty with coursework counting towards the final exam grade is how you can possibly ensure that it is the pupil's own work. There's the issue of out and out cheating and also the issue of at what point the level of "help" provided by a parent or teacher means that the coursework produced does not really reflect the pupil's ability level at all. I appreciate that the exam system can be extremely harsh on pupils who happen to be ill on the day etc, but overall I think it's still a better measure of achievement than the current coursework system which seems far too open to manipulation.

creamteas Tue 11-Jun-13 23:50:55

But coursework has already gone, controlled assessment are done instead in exam conditions in school.

So unless your school/teacher is breaking the rules (and in which case they may well help pupils cheat in exams too) , there is no longer a chance for manipulation.

needanewnickname Wed 12-Jun-13 00:07:26

Re the question of whether controlled assessments can be manipulated, I was under the impression (though I am not a teacher myself so happy to be corrected if I am wrong) that in foreign languages teachers know (without cheating) the assessment topic in advance and that an unscrupulous teacher could give a child a passage to memorise and regurgitate in the controlled assessment, with the result that a child with a good ability to memorise but with no understanding of the language could get a high mark in the assessment. Is that not the case?

Copthallresident Wed 12-Jun-13 00:10:39

Prh47bridge did you really? I only remember at my highly academic direct grant grammar being constantly force fed information. You could walk past our History Teacher's classroom when teaching Lower and Upper Fifth in any year and see exactly the same words on the blackboard, which you wrote down and then regurgitated at the end of two years. it wasn't much different at A level. There was little to be gained from reading around the subject outside of the course text book. I remember how liberating it was at uni to finally have the run of the library and an open essay question that required you to develop and structure your own argument. My DDs have been doing that since year 8/9, and any work that diverged from their own style and thinking was challenged, and they were made to do it again themselves, shame that education has to be compromised for the sake of frustrating cheats and helicopter parents, don't you think?

scaevola Wed 12-Jun-13 06:52:09

I'm of the O level then A level generation. We were most definitely not force fed facts, and were positively encouraged to express ourselves through evidence-dense argumentation in essays. And we were also encouraged to read round the subjects and examine the layers. And taken to workshops at universities to expand our horizons yet further in terms of literary criticism.

So this type of curriculum and exam isn't inherently leading to dull regurgitation.

But boring teaching can however occur in any school at any time.

KingscoteStaff Wed 12-Jun-13 07:00:50

I did O levels at GDST school in '83, and had inspiring teaching on P&P, 12th Night and Seamus Heaney. A very wide ranging curriculum with lots of opportunity to discuss the texts in depth. I certainly remember learning pages of quotes by rote, but I had to do that for A level and English degree too.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 07:19:52

Maybe things were different in the 70s than the 80s. There was considerable benefit to be gained from reading round the subject when I took my O and A levels in 83 and 85. Reading round the subject is why I got a clean sweep of As at both stages.

In the same way as I challenge people saying that (at least for arts and humanities) GCSEs are easier than O levels (they aren't) I also challenge people spouting the same tired old story that o levels were all about rote learning. They weren't. They might have been for particular unfortunate individuals at bad schools. Or with bad attitudes but they weren't for everyone. I'm sure that there are still bad schools and bad attitudes today, and that some of the criticism being leveled at GCSEs as a whole properly belongs with those schools/people rather than the system - but if it's wrong to tar all GCSEs and everyone doing GCSEs with the same brush it's equally wrong to peddle inaccuracies about O levels.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 07:21:49

Kingscote - (who are you anyway - Crommie? Such a lovely funny woman) - yes. Exactly. The other thing about the quotes - I don't know about you, but we weren't given them. We had to find them for ourselves.

muminlondon Wed 12-Jun-13 08:41:43

They've been reporting the exam changes as three-hour exams since last September but there have been so many announcements it's hard to separate out the different proposals, e.g.

TBH I don't know much about the current GCSEs not having had a DC get to that stage. If they really don't study a whole novel or Shakespeare play and will reintroduce that I hope it will not mean the tedium of taking turns to read chapters in class, for weeks.

Copthallresident Wed 12-Jun-13 08:45:43

I took O level's in 1973 and that was exactly what they were like, totally about regurgitation and certainly in 75, A levels were more on a par with the level of analysis and argument you get in GCSE now, if that . The History teacher used to draw a wedge when she was teaching about the Reform Acts for O level and it was a running joke throughout the school that the wedge would be there on the blackboard when she was on that topic year in year out. I remember the wedge, but only when needing to understand the implications for the history of another culture did I discover the lively richness of parliamentary goings on under Palmerston and Disraeli that underlied the dry facts I was taught.

As to bad teaching? Well I think that sort of unimaginative teaching by rather desiccated blue stockings was quite common in girls' grammar Schools in the 70s, their ability to communicate their enthusiasm and deep knowledge of their subject worn down by dealing with girls and a teenage culture that, having forged out a ground-breaking path to Oxford through single-minded study, they couldn't comprehend, let alone engage with and inspire. Their only weapon against clever girls was withering sarcasm and bitterness. I know plenty of others who encountered the same across the country. They meant well though.

They only turned into human beings when they had a chance to teach to the rigour of the Oxbridge entrance exams in the seventh term. They were also worn down by the demands of an exam system which they felt lacked academic rigour, to the point that we did not even take the O level for those subjects we took at A level, moving straight to the A level syllabus in Upper Fifth.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:20:29

When I taught GCSE, I would do Shakespeare with low/ bottom sets, and then I would select scenes and do lots of storytelling/drama. I think bottom sets need experience of dominant high culture so that they can have access to it and it can belong to them.

I might do the same with other challenging texts. I would also choose an easily accessible text like 'Of Mice and Men' and then do it all. For higher sets I would do the whole text and so would all colleagues I know. (Maybe paraphrasing some short scenes for expediency).

It is, and has always been possible for students not to do work set and so not know the whole text properly but apart from kids who fly by the seat of their pants, I am not aware of largfef numbers of able sets studying only sections of all texts. It is possible they study only a section of one text for a question that is all about close analysis but other texts will have been studied in their entirety. I studied one Shakespeare play, one novel and poems by four 20th century poets for O Level. I did them thoroughly and loved the course. My children have had to study a greater number of texts and study them at differing levels of thoroughness (some thorough, some less so.)

Some years ago over lunch with a Cambridge Admissions Tutor who was, at the time, an A Level Chief Examiner, he told me he far preferred GCSE as, in general, students came to him having read a far wider number of books than they had in O Level days. They might not know all of them as well as we had in the old days, but he wanted wide ranging experience and felt that teaching extensive analysis and literary theory was his job.

My own children have done whole texts as I did at O Level and A Level. I think the old exams allowed more free ranging answers and could perhpas more obviously reward reading around as Russians has pointed out.

I think current exams (in English) are very challenging at A Level. A greater knowledge of literary theory is required (since this is a field constantly developing). I don't think you can leave much out. I find some GCSE syllabuses a bit boring but I am not sure they are easy.

Sorry for waffling, but as Shakespeare's Dogberry says : "comparisons are odorous'. Times and methods have changed. It isn't all bad.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 09:21:39

See, I went to a dreadful school in the 80s.

Dreadful in terms of how few DC succeeded in any exams at all. But part of that was that the teachers utterly refused to spoonfeed us. They would ask us to do x and y and if we didn't it was our funeral.

Today the school is gets a very large part of its cohort through the GCSEs by hook or by crook. The kids sit module after module (starting in year 8) and resit until they pass. It is the antithisis of a good education! And yet it does exactly what is asked of it!

The number of A*s achieved in woeful. I mean really really woeful!!!

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:30:28

'It is the antithesis of a good education'

Yes, I see what you mean, but a good education for whom? In a school with wide ranging ability, the (perhaps unwanted) gift of a package of reluctantly-received skills and qualifications is something I would have been pleased to force on recalcitrant kids. Not sure about modules in year 8, but don't actually know anywhere that does that. Only a few per cent of children get A* in any subject.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 09:30:42

I can't believe that other countries go around saying "Our qualifications were designed 30+ yrs ago so they must be obsolete". In the USA we've had the same basic High School Diploma for 70+ yrs and I can't see a huge revolution to radically rename & change that.

I shudder in horror at return to terminal-exam approach.

The US view is that girls do better in school because they engage more & better in the actual classroom (naturally more eager to please and more teachers as role models), and are inherently more inclined to work hard, nothing to do with the timetable of the work that needs doing.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:34:47

I feel the girls/ boy thing is largely cultural. I find the difference more to Do with the value placed on education in The family/ community than gender. Which is not to say that there is no difference in the way they learn - just not that much.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:36:09

In a skills based economy, lots of things become obsolete within 30 years.

prh47bridge Wed 12-Jun-13 09:39:27

I took my O levels in 1969/70/71 (one in the 4th form, most in the 5th form and an additional one in the lower 6th). Some were certainly primarily about regurgitating facts. Others needed you to analyse stuff you had been taught and produce essays. You might, for example, be asked to argue for or against a particular view.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 09:39:53

slip you are right in many ways.

My old school is now far more successful. The majority of its pupils are educated to a level of proficency, which they were not in my day!

The education offered is rather drab but then...

My main issue is with the bright kids in that school. They are not being well served. The top sets way underperform...but then I am a fan of selective education wink so, like Mandy Rice Davis, I would say that, wouldn't I?

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:47:51

Yes I think those you mention can be ill served in some schools like this.

MadeOfStarDust Wed 12-Jun-13 09:47:55

I went to a fab school - in Scotland - in the 70s and we were taught to learn - not to regurgitate, we were introduced to a love of libraries, to entire works of Shakespeare, through the medium of the printed word and the performance - we also put our own "Shakespeare-light" type plays, modernised them etc, etc....

We had compulsory Home Economics classes where we learned to do laundry, cook and clean.

We had compulsory "Technology" classes where we learned to replace a fuse, a washer on a tap and hang a shelf (the last amid much laughter!!).

We learned to touch type and do rudimentary book-keeping as they were skills that many employers valued.

I'm unsure where that "time" has gone to in the current curriculum... it took hours of our week - even during O'Grade years...

Ilovegeorgeclooney Wed 12-Jun-13 10:31:47

My Year 11's who just left had for their English Literature GCSE read the whole The Tempest and Frankenstein for the CA, studied Purple Hibiscus and Woman in Black for one exam and a cluster of poetry and how to analyse an unseen one for the second exam. If you add that to the study each year of at least two novels, one from the Literary Heritage, a Shakespeare and a modern play and endless poetry I think Gove is making rather sweeping judgements about the content of the current curriculum.

ReallyTired Wed 12-Jun-13 10:53:04

GCSES, A-levels and indeed O-levels were designed when the majority of the workforce left school at 16. We need different skills compared with 70 years ago or even 10 years ago. There are no longer a plethola of unskilled jobs for people with no qualifications.

I have no issue with harder qualifications. Young people can take exams when they are ready. We need a framework that allows people to work at their own pace and not act as a "cap on aspiration". A less able child might sit their I-level English at 18 years old and do vocational qualifications alongside. A more able child may well be able to get their I-levels out the way at 15 years old and start A-level work.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 11:01:22

I think GCSEs were a way to unify the system, and test all young people against the same bench mark.

Now that's fine, providing we accept that a decent proportion of young people will get below a C.

However once you get parents and governments demanding that the D grade student get his C, then it no longer is a system that adequately tests the upper end, because the method of teaching required and the manipulating of the system required to focus on the middle does not well serve or adequately educate and test the upper end.

It seems that what Gove is trying to do is address that.

I do wonder though, if it might be better to simply introduce a new test for the top end?

tiredaftertwo Wed 12-Jun-13 11:05:36

I know, let's get Gove to sit the current GCSEs and see how well he does. It won't matter that he hasn't had any teaching or time to work hard, because you don't need those to get high grades. smile

For most subjects, the curricula seem broad and to require quite hefty levels of understanding and critical analysis - and I think we should go in the direction of more of this, less testing factual recall, not the other way round. Computers have quite big memories, I believe....

A comparison with O levels is pretty impossible to do, and rather pointless, IMO, but it does drive me mad when the press quotes just the "easy" questions, given GCSEs are aimed at nearly the whole ability range.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 12-Jun-13 11:08:01

My dd is in Yr 7 and yes, I'm worried for her. She's dyslexic and slow and doesn't cope with exam pressure very well.

Saying that she's bright and does homework at NC Lvl 7 which apparently is good for Yr 7.

I think GCSEs would have suited her better. But I can't change it and I suppose all kids in her year will be on a level playing field when it comes to sixth form offers/uni offers.

DeWe Wed 12-Jun-13 11:12:04

Just to note: I was wrong on dates, for some reason I read as starting in 2017 meant starting GCSEs (in year 10 )in 2017, hence doing it 2 years later. Dd1 pointed it out to me. blush

There is one thing that really bothers her about it:
She doesn't like the idea of 1-8. She says she liked the A-F grading because it looks better.

CheeryCherry Wed 12-Jun-13 11:41:41

ILove I agree, Gove and the media are spewing out sweeping Y11 is in the middle of his GCSEs. He has studied full texts in English, not extracts. He has worked really hard, aiming for high results. His school has offered countless revision study sessions during study leave, has prepared many revision/practice papers for them to attempt online.
He is sickened that his efforts are so easily dismissed by a few news headlines. They are getting good results because they are putting the effort in.
He is taking 14 GCSEs, and has worked much harder than I ever did when I crammed for O levels.
So, if there have been too many exams and assessments, why not just reduce them, find the middle ground? Relying on one exam after several months does not suit all... I know many peers who froze with the pressure and did really badly in O levels.
And can anyone tell me why they are changing to 1 to 8? What's the point?

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 11:46:38

I am pretty sure the average school leaving age is still 16 or probably a bit below, that's today's 16yos. Average years of schooling for whole UK population is 9.6 (means stopping in middle of current yr10) allowing for the fact that in the past reception was rarely a full year. If Reception is treated as a full year, average stop was middle of y9.

Easy to forget about all the dropouts.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 11:47:47

I do wonder though, if it might be better to simply introduce a new test for the top end?

seems to me like that should be the function of A-levels.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 12:40:18

lljk the reality is that applicants for university are judged (rather heavily) on their GCSE results. Often these results are given as much, if not more weight than their AS results.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 12:49:52

I think whether that's true is very highly debated on here.

lljkk - Many American states change their requirements for high school graduation all the time. When I graduated from an American high school, the year before me and the year after me had different requirements than I had as required by the state I lived in - mainly which proficiency tests were required to graduate. Not only did state requirement changes, but it differs wildly by schools - the requirement at my first high school differed greatly to the one in the catchment I moved to in 10th grade.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 17:55:07

Which is good, don't you think, LittleSporks? But it's still basically a continual assessment system, compulsory attendance age hasn't changed, the name of the qualification hasn't changed. The structural parts of the format haven't changed, and there isn't a tiering system where kids get sorted into vocational & academic types of school at the age of 11/14 whatever. I don't mind GCSEs evolving bit by bit, but this full fledged must-change-whole-format-and-the-name approach, because they can't merely be tweaked, a radical overhaul is only option, it's absurd.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 17:58:34

To be fair, I know that some states do have different types of diploma (eg) but which one you do isn't typically decided so young (sometimes 10-12 here).

prh47bridge Wed 12-Jun-13 18:12:02

As I said up thread, this is not a radical overhaul. Coursework and controlled assessment were already on the way out. So strip away the name changes and all you are left with is that they are making the exams a bit harder.

Gunznroses Wed 12-Jun-13 20:17:16

I agree with OP's daughter who said she didn't like the way the new results will look. It sounds odd as well not that this is mega important to this debate but currently we have a sample result such as:
4 A*s, 3As, 2B's, 1C.

will now become:

4 8's, 3 7's, 2 6's, 1 5 confused

savoirfaire Wed 12-Jun-13 23:11:36

Is the difference between O Levels and GCSEs really anything to do with regurgitation of facts versus freedom to read around and go beyond the syllabus? From my understanding (I did GCSEs mid-90s, DB did O-Levels early 80s, so I understand a reasonable amount about both) the difference on that really lies in the schools. I was certainly encouraged to read around the subject at both GCSE and A-Level. The subjects I got my best grades in/was best at / went on to study at uni, were the ones where I had done that additional reading around. And while I understand the concern about coursework, I thought controlled assessments had dealt with this, no? Although, in my case, my parents wouldn't have remotely dreamed of helping me out in my coursework - total anathema. Vague recollection of mum sticking some pictures into my GCSE geography coursework!

savoirfaire Wed 12-Jun-13 23:12:12

And you are SO right about the way results will look on a CV etc!

prh47bridge Thu 13-Jun-13 01:20:10

I agree that good schools encourage reading around and going beyond the syllabus regardless of what exam is being taken.

Controlled assessments have not entirely dealt with concerns about coursework and have raised some concerns of their own. For example, research by Ofqual a few years ago found widespread concern that controlled assessments reduce teaching time making it more difficult to teach the full syllabus and encouraging teaching to the course rather than getting students to go beyond the syllabus.

Crumbledwalnuts Thu 13-Jun-13 01:24:52

It's not just "harder exams" - the idea is that your son will get a better education to prepare him for the exams.

sashh Thu 13-Jun-13 05:11:10

O Levels were harder than GCSEs, but not because of subject knowledge or teaching.

50% of candidates got A-C and 50% D-E so even if you scored 90% you might still get a D grade if lots of people got 99%.

OK I don't think that ever happened but one grade changes certainly happened.

Also O Levels were designed for the top 20%. When did you last hear of a child leaving school with no qualifications? In my day (very old) my year had roughly 100 pupils, for each subject there were two streams (more for compulsory subjects) one was O Level and the other was CSE. There would be 20-30 pupils in each class. In physics I think we only had about 10. The year before me 50% of pupils got O Level/CSE grade 1 in English and maths, the English was double the national average, and the maths was three times the national average.

However we educate children if there are exams then IMHO it would be better to give a % and a grade, the % would be the mark you got in your exam and the grade for where you came compared to your cohort.

Everyone understands A-E, A* not so much, I'm thinking internationally here.

Someone mentioned the use if children are going to be at school until 18, well I think there does need to be a level 2 qualification, but I think some children would be better learning over 6 or 7 years and taking GCSE (or whatever) at 18 and actually passing.

I also don't understand all this messing about, if you look at he exam boards they are still producing O Level papers for other countries.

creamteas Thu 13-Jun-13 12:28:48

The other major issue between O levels and GCSE is the way that marking criteria work has changed.

Marking criteria used to have a lot more discretion than it does now. Not just in discursive subjects either. So for example, now in GCSE biology, your answers about the classification system for animals needs to relate to the understanding that is taught at GCSE. If you go beyond this, you will not necessarily get the marks for your answers.

This is one of the reasons that 'teaching round the test' has become such an issue. Some knowledge needs to be 'forgotten' grin.

The good thing about broader marking is that it allows wider knowledge to be brought in, the downside is it is a lot more difficult to standardize. So marker variability becomes more of an issue.

muminlondon Thu 13-Jun-13 17:42:47

If you have both criterion and norm referencing (as I think you call it, e.g. percentage mark against consistent marking scheme and alphabetical grade against cohort) it will still be very complicated to express that in your CV. I think grading has to be simple and consistent every year - if you get an '8' then they fiddle around with grade boundaries so the next year's top grade is a 9 or 10, that devalues the 8 for the job seeker and confuse employers no end.

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