Have Gove’s reforms been worth it? GCSE 2019: Trends and Prospects (click here to view) reviews what has happened in the 30 years since GCSEs came in and looks to the future.
The new courses embody higher standards, but it is hard to tell whether pupils are learning more, because whatever the exam performance, Ofqual keeps the grades the same. Perhaps the new national reference test will tell us more.
In 2018, the grades went up slightly and boys gained relative to girls in all but one of those subjects examined at the end, but girls still retained the massive lead they had built up since GCSEs replaced O-levels.
Grades in 2019 are likely to be much like they were in 2018, but up or down a bit in line with prior attainment. Boys are likely to make further inroads into the gender gap, as more end-examined GCSEs are rolled out. Northern Ireland’s results are likely to be less impressive, because it has now aligned it’s A* with England’ more rarefied grade 9.
There have been loud cries that the new exams are too tough. If they are made easier again, the reforms will have been in vain because we shall be back where we started.
A-Levels 2019: Trends and Forecast (click here to view) charts A-level choices and grades over the past three decades, and looks for pointers as to what the results in August might be.
The 2019 results are likely to be close to what they were in 2018, because Ofqual keeps them that way. They only change if the candidate cohort changes. Entries are down in maths and English – the first candidates to have taken the tougher new GCSEs – and it would seem reasonable to suppose that it is the weaker who have been put off.
Maths is the main driver of top grades. Remarkably, nearly a third of all A* grades in 2018 were awarded in maths and further maths. Since the maths candidates are likely to be, on average, of higher ability in 2019, it is probable that grades will go up, and this will lead to small increases in top awards overall.
Improvement in maths would also boost the relative performance of boys since nearly half their A* grades in 2018 came from maths and further maths. It is likely therefore that, in 2019, boys will be ahead at A* and A*/A, but still well behind at A*-C, and continue to be more likely to fail.
These forecasts come from trends, not scientific laws. The results are determined by Ofqual and will come out the way it wants them to.