How hard will Gove's new GCSEs be? Apparently you're going to have a say - 27 June 2013
Ofqual is to hold a public consultation into just how difficult England's new revamped GCSEs should be, the exams regulator has revealed.
"There is an issue about where the performance bar is to be set on the new GCSEs," Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, told a Westminster Education Forum event yesterday. "These qualifications are going to look and feel quite different, aren't they, when the proposals go ahead? And there is a public, open and transparent debate to be had about how that performance bar is set, where it is to be set and how it is to be maintained."
News of the extra consultation, to begin in the autumn, may surprise some.
Structural issues such as a new grading system, which the watchdog has already begun consulting on, have always been seen as a matter for Ofqual.
But many might have thought that the overall level of difficulty was something that would be stipulated by government. After all it was Michael Gove, education secretary, who personally initiated the idea of explicitly tougher replacements for existing GCSEs.
Indeed the Department for Education's deputy director of qualifications and assessments, Anna Paige, was present at the same London event yesterday and confirmed that ministers want new GCSEs to be "more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous".
Ofqual sources say that the "pass" grade is an accountability matter and therefore one for government. But the actual level of demand in the exams is something it needs to work out the detail of, and consult on.
It is understood to involve examining what more demanding exams would look like in practice, exactly how demanding they should be and how that level of demand can and should be maintained over time.
Meanwhile Ms Stacey also took the opportunity to publicly rubbish the idea that the new exams would be known as I or Intermediate Levels.
The suggestion - already disowned by the government - was made by The Times newspaper, which later reported that the idea came from within Ofqual.
"News to me, I must say," Ofqual's chief regulator said, "I thought I level was a sort of grill that you have in the kitchen! We are not considering on a change of title [from GCSE]."
"But there is no doubt", Ms Stacey added, "that at some point we are going to have to consider that if our qualifications are materially different at this level to those on offer in other parts of the UK then how are they to be differentiated?
"That is a discussion that we need to have. But we don't need to have it now."
Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think
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