Fears over GCSE shake-up plans

Photo credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Photo credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
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PLANS to scrap GCSEs and return to O-level-style two-tier exams have met with criticism on Wearside.

A leaked report shows the Government is preparing to scrap the current system in a bid to “tackle the culture of competitive dumbing down” and to make the exams tougher.

Howard Kemp, headteacher at Sunderland’s Farringdon Community Sports College, said: “I have grave concerns over these proposals.

“Whilst I welcome the idea of one exam board, I resent the suggestion that there has been a ‘collapse in standards’ and ‘30 years of academic decline’.

“Teaching standards are far higher than 30 years ago and many schools such as Farringdon have worked extremely hard to guarantee excellent outcomes for students.

“This narrow-minded view that we will return to the halcyon days of education is a myth – no such time ever existed.

“The proposals would return Britain to a two-tier system of haves and have-nots. This is not the inclusive education system that myself and many others have endeavoured to build, but an exclusive one.”

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Education Minister, said: “We need to be looking to the future, to equip our children and young people for the workplace they will be going into, rather than harking back to the nostalgic memories of ministers.

“Michael Gove needs to set out the evidence that making these changes will improve educational outcomes for all pupils, and not create the kind of two-tier system which failed so many last time around.”

Coun Robert Oliver, Conservative spokesman for education in Sunderland, said: “There has been considerable upheaval in education in recent years so it is important that consultation on GCSEs has regard to the pressures teachers face.

“Any new examination needs to both challenge the strongest pupils, but also be accessible to all pupils so that everyone comes out of school prepared for the world of work.

“It is important that we examine and teach pupils in a way that is as rigorous as our international competitors which is the main aim of this consultation.”

Education secretary Michael Gove is reported to be preparing to scrap GCSEs for England from autumn 2014 and says rigour is needed to be restored to the system if England is to keep pace with educational improvements in some other countries.

The documents setting out the proposed shake-up suggested less academic students would sit a different exam, like the old CSE, the national curriculum at secondary level would be scrapped altogether and there would be one exam board chosen to set the paper so all pupils take the same exam, replacing the current six boards delivering GCSEs.

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