GCSE plans bring mixed responses

LEAKED plans by eduction secretary Michael Gove to scrap GCSEs have met with mixed reactions in Boston, as head teachers contemplate the effect the changes could have on their students.

The Education Secretary has revealed plans to revert to an O-level-style system in which higher achieving students take one exam and lower achievers do another, in a bid to stamp out what he has called the ‘dumbing-down’ of the exam system.

The proposals have been met with a storm of disapproval from Liberal Democrat government colleagues and teaching unions.

Martyn Taylor, head teacher at Thomas Cowley High School in Donington, described the proposal as an ‘off-the-cuff proposal from a shoot from the hip government’.

He added: “Lincolnshire already has a two-tier education system and the last thing it needs is to go back to a two-tier exam system.

“If you do that you can forget about equality, social justice and a sense of community in school.

“If you reduce the opportunities for students to be compared with their peers in the same exam then they are going to feel they are inferior because they are in an inferior exam system.”

Mr Taylor, who began teaching in the time of the O-level system, which was scrapped in the 1980s, said it was schools like Thomas Cowley which felt the benefit of the GCSE system, and which would be the most affected by the proposals.

Boston High School head Dr Jason Howard did not share Mr Taylor’s views.

Instead, he said the new exam system could benefit students, telling The Standard: “If Mr Gove wants a more demanding qualification to replace GCSEs, then many students, especially in a selective school, will appreciate and enjoy that extra challenge.

“The knowledge and the skills they develop will help to prepare them for the even more challenging A-levels that are also apparently on their way.

“Apparently the intention is that most students should take something like the old O-levels; in the past, only a minority of students took them, so this isn’t quite ‘back to the future’.”

He added that if O-levels were not to be for everybody, then the alternative for lower achievers must have equal value.

If the change went ahead, it could come in as early as September 2014, meaning next year’s GCSE students could be the last.

It comes amid discussions over abolishing the National Curriculum and overhauling the exam board system.