Heads voice fears over proposals to scrap GCSE exams

TESTING TIMES The government could shake up the exams system, and inset, Michael Gove

TESTING TIMES The government could shake up the exams system, and inset, Michael Gove

Jon Platt

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HEADTEACHERS have expressed concerns at suggestions that GCSE exams could be scrapped to make way for tougher tests.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is reported to be planning to abolish GCSE exams in core subjects such as English in secondary schools, to make way for a new ‘two-tier’ system.

PLAN Michael Gove MP

PLAN Michael Gove MP

It would see new examinations set by one national board aiming to provide a ‘gold standard’ test.

There would also be more simple examinations, similar to the old CSEs, introduced for less able pupils.

Matthew Leeming, headteacher at Crofton School in Stubbington, said: ‘This is a hugely significant and momentous change.

‘It would need an extensive period of careful planning.

‘I’m fairly sure the previous government said they would leave schools to get on with educating children. This doesn’t seem to be consistent with that aim.’

Phil Munday, headteacher at Henry Cort Community College in Fareham, said: ‘It can be damaging to students when we have to tell them that they aren’t doing the hard exam, they are doing the easier one. It’s difficult to put it in a way that’s positive to students. As students travel through school they may start at one level but they may improve in one way. You have to decide which exam they go for early on. That does worry me because children change.

‘I don’t view this with enthusiasm because I don’t think it’s necessarily to the benefit of the children.’

If the proposals are adopted, from September 2014 students would study for harder O-level style exams covering traditional academic subjects such as English, maths, history, modern languages and the sciences.

However, Graham Best, headteacher at St John’s College in Southsea, said: ‘It’s another change but I don’t think anyone would deny that we have got to rationalise what we are doing with our examination system.

‘It’s almost impossible to create a single examination which will deal with the brightest and most able students at one end and those that are academically limited at the other.

‘What we must not do is return to the very simplistic, writing an essay type of O-level. We have got to provide examinations that are able to stretch and challenge the most able. I’m not convinced that’s the case at the moment.’

Jane Prescott, headteacher of Portsmouth High School, said: ‘Creating a two-tier system, which the country had several years ago, is not the right way forward.

‘There’s been a lot of meddling with the examination system by governments over the years. What schools want is the freedom to test and teach children in a way which will advantage them for the best to get them into jobs and further education.’

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