Exam re-think is welcomed


- Credit: Archant

A GOVERNMENT U-turn on scrapping GCSEs has been welcomed by North Somerset headteachers, but pupils will still face tougher exams in the future.

School leaders across the district have widely welcomed the binning of the proposals for a new English Baccalaureate (EBC), which was announced on Thursday.

When the idea was revealed in September, many teaching unions raised concerns about the fact the EBC would be administered by one single exam board and that those unable to accomplish it would be rewarded with a ‘certificate of achievement’, which some said would be seen as a certificate of failure.

On Thursday, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he would withdraw the proposals and has now set out plans to introduce more rigorous GCSE exams and reduce the emphasis on coursework requirements.

The new proposals include overhauling GCSEs in English, maths, science, history and geography, meaning assessments will be made at the end of two years rather than in stages.

English and history exams will test pupils’ extended writing and there will be fewer bite-sized questions.

While Gary Lewis, headteacher at Gordano School in Portishead, has welcomed the move, saying less coursework and assessments will enable pupils to enjoy learning, Nailsea School headteacher David New disagrees.

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Mr New said: “I hope the breadth and balance of the curriculum will not be affected by the concentration on subjects which a small minority of people think are very important when actually there is a much wider brief for education.

“There is no other experience that you go through in life where everything is measured by how much you can write down in a limited space of time and sitting at a desk in exam conditions.

“As we get better at teaching students to demonstrate their skills, the grades will go up. It doesn’t mean the exams are easier.”

Mr Lewis said: “I am pleased they are continuing with the GCSE but it is right to make some changes. Modules, coursework and ‘Controlled Assessments’ have come to completely dominate the experience for pupils and their teachers.

“I think we need to see movement towards a school qualification system which allows students to learn and teachers to teach and then focus on the assessment towards the end.”

Mr Gove said he hopes to introduce the new GCSEs for pupils starting courses in 2015 and sitting exams in 2017.

As part of his proposals, school league tables will also be altered to include a new eight-subject measure to assess how many pupils achieve GCSEs in English, maths, three sciences, languages, history, geography and three other topics.