Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : End for GCSE modules and spelling, punctuation and grammar marks restored to exams [December 2011]

The press release issued by the Department for Education on 14 December 2011.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today welcomed the next steps in restoring confidence to GCSEs as rigorous and valued qualifications.

The independent exams watchdog Ofqual has today confirmed short-term reforms to current GCSEs from September 2012.

It follows plans outlined in last year’s White Paper to return exams to the end of each course and stop the culture of re-sits. The changes also mean that students will once again be marked on the accuracy of their spelling, punctuation and use of grammar in GCSEs in key subjects.

The reforms effectively end modular GCSEs. They were introduced widely from 2009 but Coalition Ministers believe they have encouraged teaching to the test and prevented young people achieving a full understanding of the whole subject.

The Government is planning to make longer-term changes to GCSE syllabuses and exam requirements to reflect the new National Curriculum – focusing on the essential knowledge in key subjects and in-depth study.

Under the proposals:

  • Students starting two-year GCSE courses starting in September 2012 will have to sit their exams at the end of the course in summer 2014.
  • Pupils will no longer be able to re-sit individual unit exams in order to boost their marks – although they may retake the whole GCSE exam. Students will, however, be given an early opportunity to resit maths, English and English Language GCSEs every November because these are key subjects needed to progress to further study or employment.
  • Students will be marked on the accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar and their use of specialist terms. In the first instance, these will be those subjects that involve extended writing – English Literature, geography, history and religious studies. Five per cent of total marks in these subjects will be for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Marks assessing written communication skills already exist in English and English Language. The changes will affect externally assessed units from September 2012.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

We are taking urgent action to restore confidence in GCSEs – the next step in our overhaul of the wider exam system.

We want to break the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students’ GCSE courses – school shouldn’t be a dreary trudge from one test to the next. Sitting and passing modules has become the be-all and end-all, instead of achieving a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject. Students shouldn’t be continually cramming to pass the next exam or re-sitting the same test again and again simply to boost their mark – then forgetting it all by moving onto the next module immediately.

It was a mistake to abolish separate marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar in GCSEs over the last decade. Employers expect people with high grades to be able to communicate and write effectively, with precision and accuracy. It is right to restore specific assessment of these vital skills.