The number may be up for A, B, C in reformed exam

England could break with grading tradition for GCSEs

Grade A students could be about to become a thing of the past in England, as the country that provided the framework for many of the world's school exam systems switches to numerical grades.

This week, UK education secretary Michael Gove for the first time gave some details of how reformed GCSE qualifications for the 14-16 age group, to be introduced from 2015, could mean a new approach to grading.

The move is designed to differentiate the new qualifications from existing GCSEs and would result in England breaking away from lettered grades, also used in the US, towards the numerical approach favoured by much of the rest of the world.

"The plan that is likely, although not definitive, is that we will change how the exams are graded," Mr Gove told a parliamentary committee. "So that rather than, for the sake of argument, having A*, A and B, you might have 1, 2, 3, 4, and it might be the case that 1, 2, 3 and 4 cover the band of achievement that is currently A* and A."

He also revealed that an even more radical approach of replacing grades with the publication of individual students' precise numerical exam scores had been considered.

The idea was raised again last week by the Cambridge Assessment exam group, which said that publication of scores could "reduce some of the undesirable effects" in schools of extra effort being concentrated on students at particular grade boundaries. The board said the scores would also avoid the need for extra starred grades to differentiate the top performers.

GCSEs provided the template for IGCSEs, now taken by students in more than 120 different countries. But it seems unlikely that the international qualifications will follow reforms adopted for GCSEs in England, as previous changes have not been incorporated into IGCSEs.

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