Two-for-one maths "GCSE doesn't add up"30 August 2009
THE government has been accused of devaluing GCSEs with proposals to introduce a "two for the price of one" maths qualification.
Under the plans, pupils would take two papers in the subject instead of the current one, but would have to learn little new material in addition to what is already taught.
The government's qualifications watchdog is to pilot the new papers after complaints from maths teachers that it was unfair that English candidates could win separate GCSEs in language and literature but only a single maths GCSE was available.
Critics argue that the new maths qualifications add little extra except practical tips such as how to use spreadsheets or apply exchange rates.
"This has little to do with improving maths education," said Dale Bassett, senior researcher at the think tank Reform.
Critics argue that the changes to maths, together with other planned GCSE reforms, would accelerate the "grade inflation" that last week saw results improve for the 21st year in a row.
From this autumn, almost all GCSEs will be taught in bite-sized modules. Instead of exams at the end of a course, pupils will sit papers at the end of each section and be allowed to re-sit them if they think they can win a higher grade.
Alan Smithers, a professor at Buckingham University, said: "More modules with the opportunity for retakes reduces the assessment to small, easily manageable bits and renders the grading meaningless."
He added: "It says something that after 11 years of the government's numeracy strategy in primary schools we should be weakening maths qualifications at 16."
The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency said pilots for "twinned" maths GCSEs would begin next year.
Iain Wright, the schools minister, backed the introduction of re-sits and said that the idea of having "one shot at your future" was "old-fashioned".