Yorkshire MP welcomes Gove’s GCSE reform

Graham Stuart MP
Graham Stuart MP
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A YORKSHIRE MP and select committee chairman who criticised the effects of GCSE targets on schools has welcomed the announcement that league tables are being reformed.

Graham Stuart had warned that the system of measuring schools based on how many students achieved five A* to C grades - including English and maths - was leading teachers to focus only on pupils on the C/D borderline.

The Beverley and Holderness MP, who chairs the education select committee had called for a wider performance measure to be created more than a year ago.

This afternoon Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that this would happen.

He told the House of Commons that the current league tables create “perverse incentives” for schools to ignore their most and least able pupils and to choose subjects which were easier to pass.

Mr Gove said he wants to introduce a “more balanced and meaningful” system which gives a wider view of performance.

In future, there will be two measures, Mr Gove said.

The percentage of pupils achieving a set threshold in English and maths, and an average points score showing how much progress every student makes between the end of primary school and GCSE level in their best eight subjects.

“The average point score measure will reflect pupils’ achievement across a wide range of eight subjects,” he said.

“As well as English and maths, it will measure how well pupils perform in at least three subjects from the English Baccalaureate - sciences, history, geography, languages - and Computer Science, and in three additional subjects, whether those are arts subjects, academic subjects or high-quality vocational qualifications.

“This measure will incentivise schools to offer a broad, balanced curriculum, with high-quality teaching and high achievement across the board.”

Mr Gove insisted the changes would also mean that the all pupils’ achievements are recognised equally.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the proposals, which have been published for consultation, “mark the beginning of an important discussion”.

“The accountability framework should create incentives for teachers to help all pupils to achieve their best, but we shouldn’t underestimate how difficult this is.

“I hope the Government will seize with both hands this opportunity to put an end to perverse incentives which encourage schools to focus on particular groups of students or types of subjects.

“Whilst the consultation recognises potential pitfalls of various indicators, whenever you have specific targets and measures, there will be an inherent risk of creating perverse incentives. For the good of all young people, we have to get the balance right between robust accountability and trusting heads and teachers.”

Mr Stuart welcomed the move to consult over league table reforms and also praised Mr Gove for scaling back his plans to scrap GCSEs.

He said: “It is great news that the Government has listened to concerns about introducing a new qualification. This is exactly the way that good public policy gets made. The best way to have a constructive debate is for the Government to put forth a proposal, like it did on English Baccalaureate Certificates, have a rigorous discussion, and then change policy in response to the feedback received.“Michael Gove deserves credit, not criticism, for being willing to listen and develop an educational legacy that can last. If the previous Government had been willing to

do this we could have avoided the issues we had around the Diploma.

“Today’s announcement is an example of the increasing importance and influence select committees can have on policy development. The Secretary of State has listened to the Education Select Committee’s views and I am pleased to see that he will be consulting with the field on the best way to improve accountability in

secondary schools as well.”