Do not scrap GCSEs say West Berkshire headteachers
Documents leaked in the national media last week revealed a plan by the education secretary Michael Gove to drop GCSEs in English, maths, and science from 2014 in favour of more traditional O-level style exams the following year.
Under the old system, more able pupils sat O-levels (GCE), while the majority sat CSEs – an exam seen as an inferior qualification.
The two-tier system would be divisive and widen a growing social mobility gap, according to a former teacher at the Hurst School in Baughurst, Robin Strapp.
Mr Strapp, who has been in education for more than 30 years, said reform should be about moving forward, not looking at the past.
“It’s time politicians stopped using education as a political football and left teaching to the teachers,” he said.
“Gove wants a return to strict academic rigour that may well suit the small majority of high fliers who will be destined to university but what about the rest?
“Students only get one opportunity to pass through the education system and what we need is stability and continuity, surely we owe it to them to make it the very best of experiences?
The executive headteacher of Kennet School, Thatcham, Paul Dick (pictured), said a two-tier system did little to resolve issues that were far from new.
“Whether it is O-Level or GCSE the same problem remains for children who are on the borderline. The boundary problem still applies, some can miss out,” he said.
He said he agreed with proposals to introduce a single examination board, which would raise standards across the country as schools would not be able to sign up to easier boards.
“GCSEs have suffered from grade inflation and that needs to stop,” he added.
The headteacher of Theale Green Community School, Sue Marshall, said she felt the proposals were “very unfortunate” and signalled a lack of clear thinking in the Department for Education.
“I began teaching CSE and O level maths in the 1980s and I can clearly remember how demotivated CSE students were by their sense of being second best. Is this really what we want for 80% of our young people?” she said.
“Schools have lots of examples of how they provide real stretch and challenge to their able students that could be used to improve GCSE without trying to turn the clock back to a mythical time when Mr Gove believes that education was so much better.”
A spokesman for David White, spokesman for the NASWUT Berkshire union said the Government should concentrate on creating jobs rather than “messing about” with the exam system.”
“It will be a big problem if successful students who do well in their exams leave and can’t get a job, I think that is what Michael Gove should be looking at.”
The Department for Education would not comment on the leaked documents when approached by the Newbury Weekly News.
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