The way secondary teachers prepare pupils for their GCSEs will soon change significantly under new reforms announced by exams regulator Ofqual.
Under the new system, GCSEs will be graded using a new scale running from one-to-nine, with nine being the highest, while students will be awarded a U grade where performance is below the minimum required to pass the subject.
Secondly, tiering - whereby differentiated question papers are used to target different levels of achievement - will be used only for subjects in which untiered papers would not allow low ability pupils to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, or stretch high ability children sufficiently.
Ofqual has also revealed subjects will be taught under fully linear structures, with all assessment at the end of the course and content not divided into modules, while exams will primarily only be taken in the summer.
Moreover, exams will become the default method of assessment, except in cases where they are deemed incapable of providing a valid assessment of the skills required.
Following a consultation earlier this year, these reforms will be introduced for GCSE English language, English literature and maths for pupils beginning key stage four in September 2015, before being rolled out for other subjects a year later.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacey explained: "In recent years we have been taking action to improve the current GCSEs.
"But further changes are needed if GCSEs are to be more engaging and worthwhile to teach and study. The changes being made will make sure they are better qualifications: better assessed and more resilient so that everyone can have greater confidence in the results."
In addition, Ofqual has revealed further details for the GCSE subjects being taught from 2015, with English language to be untiered and assessed by external exam only, while maths will use an improved overlapping tiers model.
English language will also be fully assessed by an untiered external exam, with pupils also undertaking a speaking assessment that will be reported separately.
Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Malcolm Trobe cautiously welcomed the new exams regime, which he said appeared "well thought through", although he expressed some concern at the "tight" timescale for implementation.
Posted by Harriet McGowan