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Exams group wants GCSE grades scrapped

10/05/2013 Joanna
An international exams group has advocated that GCSE grading be scrapped, which could potentially repair secondary teachers' dented confidence in the qualifications.

Concerns over the marking of speaking and listening tests prompted Ofqual to revise English GCSE grade boundaries last June, with the exam regulator announcing recently that these tests will now no longer count towards students' final English GCSE grades.

Nonetheless, survey findings published last week by Ofqual suggest the debacle made a significant impression on those in teacher jobs, with 35 per cent stating that they did not have confidence in the GCSE qualification and 60 per cent that they had less confidence in it than last year.

Research published by Cambridge Assessments (CA), which operates three exam boards, has now suggested that GCSE exam grades should be abolished altogether and replaced with a numerical scale comprising a far larger number of points.

CA argued that this would bring an end to situations arising whereby two pupils with very different marks nonetheless end up receiving the same grade, or where two pupils with very similar marks receive different grades as they are on opposite sides of a grade boundary.

Moreover, it asserted that this system retained as much data as possible from exams about the rank order of students and would also be more "future proof" as there would be no need to add extra grades if attainment rises or if more discrimination is needed at the top end.

Tim Oates, CA director of assessment research and development, described grades as "arbitrary categories", which mask an underlying continuum of achievement that would be better captured by reporting scale scores.

He advocated: "New GCSEs must not be confused with existing GCSEs; we need to make a clean break with the past.

"Scale scores might encourage the use of different accountability measures, which could reduce some of the undesirable effects in schools of extra effort being concentrated on pupils around the grade C boundary. This would lead to better teaching and learning."

However, education expert Professor Alan Smithers from the University of Buckingham rejected this proposal, telling the Daily Mail that exact scores are meaningless as exams are not an entirely precise vehicle for measuring academic ability.

Professor Smithers added that given the public's deep familiarity with grades, they should not be dispensed with unless there is a "compelling" reason for doing so.

Posted by Alan DouglasADNFCR-2164-ID-801583995-ADNFCR
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