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Validity of rising GCSEs cast into doubt

24/05/2012 Joanna
The head of England's biggest exam board has questioned how much value can be placed against rising grades, highlighting the growing discrepancy between A-levels and international benchmarks.

While those in teaching jobs have worked hard to ensure that student performance at GCSE and A-level has steadily improved over the past ten years, Rod Bristow, president of Edexcel-owner Pearson UK, warned that students in England are failing to see the same increases when scored against their international counterparts.

In an interview with TES, he said that exam boards should be "worried" that rising A-level and GCSE results don't appear to be reflected in comparisons between students from this country and the rest of the world.

While he did not suggest that grades had inflated in the past ten years, Mr Bristow did tell the publication: "We have not seen increases in our performance on international benchmarks, nothing to do with rankings - the actual scores haven’t improved. That must tell you that there is an issue we need to look at, to be worried about."

"We have got to up our game," he added, noting that levels of professionalism must be raised across the board.

His comments came as exams regulator Ofqual said that it is considering changes to the grading structure for GCSEs, so as to reduce the number of subjects available and better reflect what is offered by international standards.

Announcing the body's corporate plan through to 2015 last week, chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: "We have been listening to those in schools, colleges, higher education, business and government and our plan reflects what they have been telling us and the findings from our own growing research and evidence base."

She added that the regulator's focus remains on ensuring that academic and vocational qualifications remain "of the right standard", with this quest at the heart of everything it does, particularly as exams and assessments are only part of a wider education system. For this reason, it is important that testing also supports effective teaching and learning.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801370445-ADNFCR
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