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Why we oppose Gove's GCSE and A Level reforms

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NUS has recently conducted research in to students opinions on the proposed reforms to GCSE and A level qualifications.

Over 500 students took part in an online survey which asked questions on the Government’s planned changes to the structure and content of both qualifications.

The survey asked a variety of questions from the value of exam tiering to the necessity for resits and the introduction of a new grading system.

The responses revealed a strong aversion to the removal of non- exam based assessment. Over two thirds of respondents disagreed that ‘assessment should solely take the form of externally marked and set exams’.

‘There are merits to all types of assessment. However I feel that by forcing all students down one particular route it can heavily stunt the learning opportunities of some. Some children will work under exam conditions perfectly. But others will flourish when doing coursework, something that allows them to work in their own way in their own time’.

Over 80 per cent of respondents agreed that coursework, of some form, should remain a part of assessment. The students who responded to the survey argued that coursework provides school and college leavers with the necessary skills for future study or employment. Many respondents commented that without the experience of undertaking research during their A levels they would have been ill prepared for writing essays at University.

‘Many of the types of assessment planned on being cut are used at University level, and mean that people get life skills such as presentations and longer essays during their time at school’.

The survey also revealed strong opposition to the imposition of linear qualifications. Under these proposals exams would solely take place at the end of two year GCSE or A level qualification. Almost three quarters of respondents disagreed with this suggestion citing a preference for modular exams rather than a highly pressurised exam term at the end of two years of study.

A large proportion of respondents also expressed strong opinions on the curtailment of the ability to re-sit. 90 per cent of respondents to the survey agreed that students should be given the opportunity to re-sit in all subjects. Many, as a result, rejected the proposal that GCSE re-sits should be available in November for Maths and English only.

The survey also asked whether the grading system of GCSEs and A levels should be altered from its existing letter based structure. Respondents overwhelming replied that the current grading system should remain, with over 80 per cent saying it did not need replacing.

These headline figures from the survey demonstrate students’ widespread concerns over the Government’s plans for GCSE and A level qualifications.

Read NUS Vice President (Further Education) Joe Vinson's open letter to Michael Gove here.

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