Ofqual has published full details of the new maths and English GCSEs which will be introduced from 2015.
In a report published today, the qualifications watchdog confirmed there will be a new grading scale that uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top level.
Maths, English language and English literature will all be assessed by exams, without coursework.
There will be no tiering of papers for English language and literature, but higher and lower level papers will be retained for maths.
Most exams will only be sat in the summer, apart from limited cases with English language and maths where students who were 16 on the preceding August 31 will be able to take them in November.
Ofqual’s chief regulator Glenys Stacey explained why the grading system had been changed.
She said: “For many people, the move away from traditional grades, A, B, C and so on, may be hard to understand. But it is important. The new qualifications will be significantly different and we need to signal this clearly.”
In a public consultation on the new GCSEs, the Association of Colleges (AoC) raised concern about students who failed to achieve a C grade at English and maths, simply being forced to resit the same exam in FE.
It said there should be pre-GCSE stepping-stone qualifications and a better link between functional skills and GCSEs — which it claimed would make it easier for post-16 students to gradually improve up to GCSE level.
The AoC also disapproved of plans to scrap coursework and base the assessment entirely on end-of-course exams.
It stated: “We are concerned a return to fully linear GCSEs with 100 per cent end assessment by external examination will not suit some young people.
“Research shows that end assessment favours boys, while continuous assessment and coursework favours girls.”
The AoC also raised concern that students with special needs could struggle to cope with high pressure exam situations.
The government also confirmed on October 28 that the new maths and English GCSEs would be incorporated into apprenticeships instead of functional skills from 2017.
Roger Francis, from vocational training firm Creative Learning Partners Ltd, raised concern this would rule out many less academic young people.
He said: “If the new GCSEs become the only standard for future apprentices, then there is a serious danger that thousands of young people who simply cannot cope with the rigours of an academic course will be disadvantaged and unable to complete an apprenticeship.”
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers also commented in its submission to the GCSE consultation.
It stated: “They [the reformed maths and English GCSEs] must be flexible enough to meet the needs of learners in work-based settings, where high quality programmes such as apprenticeships and traineeships are not linked to the academic year.”