So GCSEs are operating on borrowed time. By 2015, they’ll be gone and replaced by Michael Gove’s shiny new test.
Which looks more than a little like O-levels, GCSEs’ direct precursor.
But no matter – there are few more important things to get right than the education of the young. Who can forget the past 20 years-plus of results getting better and better every year?
This, coupled with the annual debate over whether they’re getting easier and being dumbed down or are pupils getting cleverer.
After this year’s debacle surrounding the downgrading of English marks, for some the change can’t come soon enough.
So it’s goodbye modular courses and grades being decided on a number of factors and hello big end-of-year exam upon which everything rests.
For many readers this will be a welcome change and a return to how exams are meant to be. We applaud that.
While there’s nothing wrong with the current system, that’s not to say it can’t be improved.
The new exams will certainly help youngsters focus their minds on the challenge at hand.
A test when pupils are expected to cram hard and reproduce on the day.
It may not be a method suited to every subject – the number of subjects available has boomed since GCSEs were brought in – but it should suit most and will provide a true snapshot of pupils’ depth of knowledge.
In turn, it will give employers a clearer picture of people’s skillsets. And, more importantly, it will give pupils a crystal clear indication of their abilities. Yes, there are some details outstanding. As Adam Dare, the headteacher of King Richard School in Paulsgrove, says: ‘There are more questions than answers about the new proposal’. But the government will be under pressure to make sure it works for both it and the pupils taking the exams. If it doesn’t work and becomes an exams debacle, they’ll be the ones who’ll pay.