The Secretary of State has written to Ofqual, the independent regulator of qualifications in England, setting out the Government’s policy on reforms to qualifications at the end of Key Stage 4.
GCSEs will be comprehensively reformed, to ensure that pupils have access to qualifications that set expectations that match and exceed those in the highest-performing jurisdictions. The reformed GCSEs will remain universal qualifications accessible, with good teaching, to the same proportion of pupils as currently sits GCSE exams at the end of Key Stage 4.
There will be an increase in the demand at the level of what is widely considered to be a pass (currently indicated by a grade C). At the top end they will provide proper preparation for A Level. This will be achieved through a balance of more challenging subject content and more rigorous assessment structures.
The changes will apply to GCSEs in English language, English literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, combined science (double award), history and geography for first teaching from 2015. Changes to other subjects will follow as soon as possible after that, with the aim that new qualifications are in place for teaching from September 2016.
Given the potential risks of reforming the qualifications market at the same time as fundamentally changing qualifications, we will not move to having a single awarding organisation offering each subject suite at this time.
You can read more about the planned changes to GCSEs in the Secretary of State’s letter to Ofqual.
The Government’s response to its consultation on reforming Key Stage 4 qualifications has also been published.
The Department has also launched a consultation seeking views on how to improve the accountability measures for secondary schools in England. The consultation proposes changes to the existing performance measures, which will reflect these significant reforms to GCSEs. Further information about the accountability consultation, which closes on Wednesday 1 May, can be found in the consultations section.
You can also find information about our consultation on programmes of study and attainment for Key Stages 1- 3, and draft programmes of study for Key Stage 4 English, mathematics and science in our National Curriculum section.