Gove in ‘humiliating climbdown’ over plan to scrap GCSEs

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EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove has been accused of making a “humiliating climbdown” after announcing his plan to scrap GCSEs was being shelved.

He told MPs his idea to use a single exam board for each of the core English Baccalaureate certificates (EBCs) he was aiming to create was “a bridge too far”.

He warned, however, that the current system was “broken” and needed to be reformed.

Instead of new EBCs in English, maths, the sciences, history and geography being launched in 2015, Mr Gove is now asking Ofqual to develop new GCSEs in these subjects. He also confirmed plans to reform secondary school league tables in an attempt to stop schools focusing on pupils on the C/D borderline.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said the announcement was a “humiliating climbdown” and told Mr Gove the words “GCSE” and “fiasco” go hand-in-hand with this Government.

He asked Mr Gove to apologise to pupils and parents for having “done down their hard work on GCSEs”.

Mr Gove told MPs that instead of new qualifications, GCSEs will be reformed, with exams taken at the end of the course, rather than in modules, extended questions and less internal assessment.

He also confirmed that he will not be pressing ahead with plans to hand each of the core EBC subjects to a single exam board – a move he had previously argued was essential to prevent boards “dumbing down” standards to attract more schools.

“Last September we outlined plans for changes to GCSE qualifications designed to address the grade inflation, dumbing down and loss of rigour in those examinations,” Mr Gove told the Commons.

“We have consulted on those proposals and there is now a consensus that the system needs to change. But one of the proposals I put forward was a bridge too far.

“My idea that we end the competition between exam boards to offer GCSEs in core academic qualifications and have just one – wholly new – exam in each subject was just one reform too many at this time.”

Mr Twigg said: “We have to focus on the standards and move beyond the shambles. There should be a cross-party consensus on a future plan for the next generation of qualifications, based on the best available expert evidence – not the back of an envelope.”

Schools will no longer be judged on the proportion of pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSE grades in the overhaul of league tables announced yesterday.

Mr Gove said he was concerned this led to schools focusing on C/D borderline pupils and picking the easiest subjects to pass. In future, there will be two measures: the percentage of pupils achieving a set threshold in English and maths, and an average points score showing how much progress every pupil makes from leaving primary school to GCSE level in their best eight subjects.