The current GCSE system could be replaced by an English Baccalaureate award by 2015, it was announced in a speech by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove on Monday.
The 2015 start date, said to have been put in place by Nick Clegg, will mean that Gove’s proposal could be scrapped again if Labour win the next Election.
The new ebacc will mean that there will be no more partial re-sits, the whole three-hour exam at the end of two years of ‘deep learning’ will have to be taken again, as opposed to the coursework and 90 min modular examination re-sits of the current system. Pass grades will be on levels of 1 to 6, with anything after (not including) 6 to be classed as a fail. It has been projected that as few as 5% of pupils will get grade 1. Currently, 22% or pupils achieve an A or A* grade.
Last year, 84% of GCSE students in York achieved five or more A* to C grades, with provisional figures from this year’s results showing that figure has improved by an extra 4%.
Back in June, it was hinted that Gove planned to reintroduce O-levels and CSEs. Gove said, “I want us to ensure that in the next ten years, at least 80% of our young people are on course to securing good passes in properly testing exams in maths, English and science”.
Granted, the results of York’s young people are above the national average, but what has Gove stated as his reasons for changing the existing system which came into schools in the 1980s? Mainly, to avoid grade inflation. Pass rates have risen every year since GCSEs were introduced, and this new system will compete with international league tables better, according to the Government.
Gove has said he expects every child to have the opportunity to take the tougher exam, with his Aides adding the suggestion that slower learners could take the test later in their school lives, as the education leaving age rises to 18. The idea was criticised by Nick Clegg earlier in the year on the grounds that it could lead to a two-tier system.
The new exams have also been criticised by head teachers, as they risk placing less importance on sport, culture and the arts. Speaking to the Telegraph, Russell Hobby, General Secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers said, “Unfortunately, at the moment, if something isn’t measured, it is marginalised”. This could affect results for York’s schools as subjects like business, maths and computing may be favoured over schools with an emphasis on arts, such as Manor CE school, or sports, like York High.
In his speech to the House of Commons this week, Gove said of the overhaul, “even as exams become more rigorous, more students will be equipped to clear this higher bar. Indeed, we are explicitly ambitious for all our children – and we believe that over time we will catch up with the highest performing nations and a higher proportion of children will clear the bar”.
It remains to be seen whether the plans will be implemented for certain, and how they will affect our education system in the region and nationally.