Headteacher says plans to replace GCSEs with ‘I levels’ could be ‘disastrous’

The headteacher of a top independent school has warned that government plans to strip coursework from GCSE subjects as part of new exams dubbed “I levels” could be disastrous for arts pupils.

The comments made by the head of Highgate School, Adam Pettitt, were echoed by Camden Council’s education chief, Cllr Angela Mason, who said reports of the plans to replace GCSEs will cause “alarm” in schools and may lead to an “elitist” education system.

On Tuesday, The Times reported that education secretary Michael Gove is planning “the most sweeping reform to exams for a generation” with the introduction of the “I level”, or “Intermediate level”, as early as 2015.

Under the plans, it is claimed England’s exams regulator Ofqual will get rid of coursework in all core exams except science and a new grading system between one and eight will be introduced – with grade eight replacing A* as the top achievement.

Reacting to news of the plans, which have not been confirmed by Ofqual, Mr Pettitt said: “Removing modules and coursework should return intellectual integrity to academic subjects, but it will be disastrous if no coursework or teamwork assessment will be allowed for those disciplines which thrive on it – art, technology, drama, music.

“Pupils need to meet a variety of assessment types if they are to be fully prepared for further study and for employment.”

The Times reported that the changes will be published imminently and will apply to new exams in English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, double science, history and geography, to be introduced in schools from September 2015.

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According to the newspaper, the new exams will form the template for qualifications in remaining subjects from 2016 but will mean that hundreds of thousands of pupils will sit a mixture of old GCSEs and new exams in their early stages.

Cllr Mason, cabinet member for children, said: “I think it will cause alarm in our schools. I can’t imagine our teachers, heads and governors are going to welcome this.

“It’s very, very difficult for schools if the government is constantly changing the goalposts around the national curriculum.

“There is also a real danger that the government will create a too-elitist academic curriculum.”

An Ofqual spokesman said: “We will be consulting on proposals for reformed GCSEs shortly. We will not comment on speculation about the content of our consultation.”