Press release

Perceptions of A levels and GCSEs in England: wave 13

The results of Ofqual’s annual survey on perceptions of A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications. Conducted 19 January to 27 February 2015.

placeholder

Highlights from the survey:

Perceptions of GCSEs and A levels

  1. GCSEs and A levels continue to be seen as a trusted qualifications by headteachers (GCSE +44 percentage points (pp); A level +84pp), young people (+53pp; +79pp) and parents (+54pp; +74pp).
  2. Overall, A levels are seen by those involved in higher education (+36pp), teachers (+71pp) and employers (+80pp) as good preparation for further study, but their views are more broadly balanced with respect to work. GCSEs are seen by all groups to develop a broad range of skills for students and are good preparation for further study.
  3. Headteachers (+22pp) were more likely to agree than disagree that A level standards are maintained year on year. In general, parents (+10pp) and young people (+14pp) also have confidence that A level standards are maintained year on year. Overall, more parents (+3pp) and young people (+7pp) than not have confidence that GCSE standards are maintained year on year.
  4. More parents (+4pp) and young people (+12pp) than not believe the marking of GCSEs is accurate. As many teachers agreed with this statement as disagreed.
  5. Overall, those involved in higher education (+32pp) and employers (+20pp) believe GCSEs provide a reliable measure by which applicants can be fairly compared to one another. Those involved in higher education are more likely to say than not (+33pp) that A levels provide a good indicator of the overall ability of an applicant.
  6. Employers are more likely to say than not (+19pp) that A levels provide a reliable measure by which candidates’ suitability for employment can be fairly compared to one another. They are also more likely to say (+32pp) that A levels are a good indicator of a candidate’s suitability for recruitment to an entry level role.

Perceptions of GCSE and A level reform

  1. Overall, more parents (+16pp), teachers (+12pp) and those in higher education than not (+24pp) agreed that GCSEs needed reform. Those involved in higher education were more likely to say than not (+28pp) that A levels needed reform, but headteachers (-21pp) were more likely to think the opposite.
  2. By a large margin, more teachers (+30pp) agreed than not that the reduction in teacher assessment is a good thing. A smaller margin of teachers (+1pp) disagreed with the suggestion that the move to linear end of course assessment was a bad thing at GCSE. However, they were more likely (+13pp) to agree that the removal of tiering (where possible) was a bad thing.
  3. Overall, teachers (+32pp) and headteachers (+16pp) were more likely than not to view the reduction in teacher assessment in some A level subjects as a good thing.
  4. There is a universal belief, though most strongly held by headteachers, that the disadvantages of decoupling the AS from the A level outweigh the advantages.
  5. In general, headteachers (+47pp) were more likely than not to say that they understand the new 9 to 1 grading scale to be used in new GCSEs, but more work needs to be done over the next two years with the general teaching population (-4pp), young people (-27pp) and parents (-34pp).

Awareness and perceptions of Ofqual

  1. Most teachers (92%) and headteachers (99%) said that they were aware of Ofqual as the independent regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. The general public (35%), employers (56%) and those involved in higher education (+85%) were less aware.
  2. Overall, of those who were aware of Ofqual, more headteachers (+13pp) agreed than disagreed that Ofqual is a trusted organisation. Employers (+14pp), the general public (+15pp) and those involved in higher education (+27pp) said similar.
  3. Overall, of those who were aware of Ofqual, more headteachers (+4pp) than not said that Ofqual communicates information well, but a majority of respondents in other groups disagreed. A majority in all responding groups agreed with the proposition that Ofqual is too close to government.

Commenting on today’s release, Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator Ofqual, said:

These data show the perceptions of those closest to the education system. There are many positives in this release, most importantly that GCSEs and A levels continue to be trusted by the vast majority of those who rely on these qualifications. There are also areas where we can, and are already doing more, including enhancing our communications with everyone who has an interest in education. For example, we are today launching the first in a series of digital ‘postcards’ to explain more about our work, focussing initially on the new 9 to 1 GCSE grading system.

ENDS

Background

Our perceptions report was published 2 June 2015..

YouGov interviewed 3,192 people (241 headteachers, 704 teachers, 324 students, 353 parents or carers, 274 employers, 291 academic professionals involved in higher education and 1,005 members of the general public). Responses reflect only those respondents included in the study.

Net balances (eg +10pp) represent the percentage of respondents who agree with a statement less those that disagree. For example, if 50% of respondents agreed with a question, 35% disagreed and 15% were unsure/neither agree nor disagree, the net balance would be +15pp (= 50-35).

Between wave 12 and this wave (13) there have been considerable changes to how question in the survey have been structured. This means it is not possible to make direct comparisons with previous waves.

Our ‘postcard’ on the new 9 to 1 GCSE grading system is available on GOV.UK and also on Pinterest.

Press office

For enquiries from journalists only. The press office phone is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

Published 2 June 2015