Major changes across education

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As you will be aware a raft of major changes across education begin to take effect this year. As a school our planning is well underway but here’s a brief guide to the main points and milestones with the latest updates.



  • The revised National Curriculum becomes statutory in September 2014 in all maintained secondary schools, except for core subjects in Key Stage 4. You can see it at National Curriculum
  • Academies, free schools and university technical colleges (UTCs) do not have to follow the National Curriculum but will need to pay attention to core subject programmes of study as the reformed GCSEs will be based on them.
  • The subject structure has not changed except that ICT becomes computing and languages become statutory in Key Stage 2.
  • There is guidance on personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) but this is non-statutory.
  • National Curriculum attainment targets and levels disappear and schools are free to adopt a system of their own choosing to record and report progress.
  •  At KS2 pupils will continue to follow the current programmes of study in 2014-2015 and take tests based on levels in 2015 but in 2016 there will be new KS2 tests. The assessment structure for these tests has not yet been decided.

GCSE reform

  • All GCSEs are to be reformed. New English (language and literature as two separate qualifications) and maths will be available for first teaching in 2015 and first examining in 2017. The content will be greater (see KS4 core National Curriculum programmes of study) and the new exams will be graded 1 to 9 with 9 being the highest. Exams will be linear and there will be no teacher assessment but tiering will remain in maths.
  • From 2017 November resits will only be available in English language and maths for students aged 16 or over.
  • Other GCSE subjects will be reformed for first teaching in 2016 and first examining in 2018. All existing subject titles will be reviewed to see whether they fit the definition of a GCSE and, if so, they will be revised in a similar structure to English and maths. They will be linear and the numerical grades will apply but there will be teacher assessment, where appropriate. Ofqual will be consulting on the assessment structures for these other subjects.
  • Ofqual will also consult on the standards of the reformed GCSEs. Decisions are yet to be taken about the value of the new grades and how these will be awarded.

A level reform

  • All A levels will become linear, two-year courses with exams only at the end of the course. AS will continue to exist as a separate qualification. The content will be co-teachable with the first year of the A level course but the exams will not be at A level standard and the results will not count towards the A level result. The future of AS depends largely on the value that university admissions tutors place on them (that is as yet an unknown).
  • It has been decided that the following subjects require very little change and will be reformed for first teaching in 2015 and first examining in 2017 (A level) and 2016 (AS level): the English suite, all sciences, history, geography, psychology, art and design, sociology, business studies, economics, and computing.
  • Maths, further maths and languages require more work and will be reformed for first teaching in 2016 and first examining in 2018, along with all other remaining subjects. A new body led by universities, the A-level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB), will be involved.
  • A level and AS grades and standards will not change.
  • Vocational qualifications
  • At KS4, schools may use any qualification from list 96 but only those on the DfE-approved list will count as equivalent to one GCSE for performance tables. This list is updated annually in November/December.
  • At post-16, schools and colleges are free to use a variety of qualifications but to be counted in performance tables qualifications will have to meet criteria similar to those in place at KS4. The first list giving interim recognition was published in December 2013 and will be updated annually as qualifications change to meet the new criteria. These qualifications are divided into ‘applied’ (that have a general vocational slant and provide progression to employment or HE) or ‘technical’, which aim to meet workplace requirements and need employer support.


  • The biggest change will come in 2016 when the ‘best eight progress measure’ replaces five A*-C (including English and maths) as the main measure of accountability. The measure is an average of the best eight score achieved by every student in Year 11 based on progress from KS2 results.
  • Floor targets will be based on this new measure.
  • The best eight has to include GCSE English and maths, plus any three subjects from history, geography, computing, any language – ancient or modern, and any science subject, plus any three other GCSEs or equivalent vocational qualifications that are listed by the DfE.
  • Maths and English will be double counted (but this only applies in English if the student has entered for English language and literature – otherwise it would count singly). The best result from language and literature will count.



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