Nonetheless, HMI identify several areas of continuing weakness in the GCSE which the code has yet to address. HMI also found some serious flaws in the criteria for the assessment of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Some able candidates are being penalised for poor spelling when attempting a more sophisticated vocabulary and some science candidates are being judged on their spelling and grammar based on limited evidence.
In the GCSE many candidates achieve satisfactory standards overall but the levels of attainment that they demonstrate can be worryingly uneven across the whole syllabus. There is a danger that important and more demanding parts of a syllabus will be given insufficient attention in the classroom.
In English, for example, candidates offering strong presentation and organisation of coursework, are let down by an inability to rise to the challenge of a timed, formal examination. In mathematics, standards are improving in statistics and probability but even among candidates who gain the highest grades, questions involving algebra and proof are answered badly. Similar trends were observed in other subjects.
'Scope exists for the GCSE to help raise expectations and improve national standards. The introduction of the National Curriculum in Key Stage 4 (at 16 years old), and the alignment of the GCSE with it, will provide the opportunity to tackle the weaknesses identified in this report.'