UK & World News
Gove Admits Axing GCSEs Was 'Bridge Too Far'
Education Secretary Michael Gove has been forced to shelve his flagship plans to scrap GCSEs, admitting they were a "bridge to far".
Mr Gove confirmed the embarrassing U-turn in a statement to the Commons as Labour accused him of presiding over a "fiasco".
His plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate in core academic subjects were unveiled last September and billed as the biggest overhaul in a generation.
But they have been shelved after opposition within the coalition from the Liberal Democrats, and more widely from regulators and teachers.
A move to hand each core subject to a single exam board - something Mr Gove previously claimed was vital to prevent "dumbing down" - has also been ditched.
The reverse comes days after the cross-party Commons Education Committee said the Government had "not proved its case" that GCSEs should be abolished in key academic subjects.
The Education Secretary told MPs GCSEs would now be reformed rather than scrapped, with the focus on end-of-course exams, longer questions and less internal assessment.
He insisted there was still a consensus that the system has to change and tried to downplay the U-turn by saying: "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.
"The exam regulator Ofqual ... was clear that there were significant risks in trying to both strengthen qualifications and end competition in a large part of the exams market.
"So, I have decided not to make the best the enemy of the good.
"And I will not proceed with plans to have a single exam board offering a new exam in each academic subject - instead we will concentrate on reforming existing GCSEs along the lines we put forward in September."
He later added: "I bit off more than I could chew."
Mr Gove had wanted to introduce the new EBacc certificate in England in the five core academic areas of English, maths, science, languages and humanities - history or geography.
Each of the core subjects would have been handed to a single examination board but officials had warned the plan could fall foul of EU procurement rules.
It is the second time the Liberal Democrats have blocked Mr Gove's reforms after they vetoed plans to replace GCSEs with a two-tier exam system last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said during his weekly radio phone-in on LBC that Mr Gove was right to change his mind. "I want to pay tribute to Michael. He's listened and he's reacted," he said.
But shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said in the Commons: "The words 'GCSE' and 'fiasco' seem to be indelibly linked under this Government. This is a humiliating climbdown.
"This is a failed vision for education. A total misunderstanding of the future needs of our country. A total shambles.
"Forced into apologising to the House when you scrapped Building Schools for the Future. Forced into a partial U-turn on school sport. You should have learned your lesson by now."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This is an extremely welcome decision.
"ASCL has never believed that GCSE is beyond repair and has been advocating this course of action for many months.
"This decision will provide an opportunity to improve the existing qualification and will be warmly welcomed by the profession."
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), added: "This is a victory for all those who have campaigned against this ill thought-out reform to GCSEs.
"The Education Secretary must now learn a lesson from this fiasco and consult with those who know far more than he appears to do about education."
Mr Gove told MPs new GCSEs in English, maths, science, history and geography which will be "universal" qualifications taken by most students will now be taught from 2015.
Current league tables based on the proportion of pupils achieving A*-C in five subjects will also be replaced in the shake-up.
Two new measures are being introduced, one on the percentage of pupils reaching a certain threshold in English and maths and a second average points score per pupil across eight subjects.
"This measure will incentivise schools to offer a broad, balanced curriculum, with high-quality teaching and high achievement across the board," Mr Gove said.
Ofqual sent the Education Secretary a letter warning that the Government's timetable for reform is still "challenging" and might have to be delayed further.
"We will need jointly to keep the timetable under review and if problems arise Ofqual would, if necessary, delay the reforms," chief regulator Glenys Stacey wrote.
Hello, regular commenting on Orange News and Sport pages closes on Thursday 30 May 2013. We will continue to provide a commenting facility on major news and sport events on orangeworld.co.uk. Contact us via http://oran.ge/OWfeedback if you have any further questions. Thanks.
what do you think?
Ive always thought that school is too academic in many subjects,when its obvious to me that the practical abilitys are more important.too much emphasis is orientated to being able to write things down which is just stupid in some subjects.
Good point, Shaun. I've always thought that the German econdary education system is very good. It offers Academic Education leading to university and Technical or Vocational Education that can lead either to university or recognised vocational qualifications. There's no doubt that the quality of our secondary eduction system now is inferior to that of our competitors, so something has to be done about it.
I can think of a number of formal qualifications that can lead to a life of relative financial comfort - medicine, computer studies, law, most science subjects, economics. However, education should be an end in itself - for some people it isn't about money. Their ideal job involves getting paid for what they enjoy doing.
Mick A good education either academic, technical or practical based leads to a reasonably well paid secure job When you look at the breakdown in unemployed the highest levels are amongst those who have low education standards such as shop assistants, care workers, beauticians, hotel workers etc As a nation we should strive towards a minimum education standard to allow you to leave school, not an age
I agree, Michael, about standards rather than age. I am tired of trying to teach secondary school aged pupils the absolute basics after they have come up from primary schools unable to spell their own addresses and so on. I think that's just ridiculous - something you may expect from a dyslexic student, perhaps, but not the majority!
And, Shaun - I agree too, but things have changed and it's worth knowing what also goes on as well as the academia within schools. We have enterprise activities, a hair salon where pupils study for qualifications, building courses, mechanical engineering courses and so on. I agree that it's ridiculous for a child wanting to be a mechanic to have to study ill-suited academic subjects for so many wasted years. They can drop some and pick up the more vocational subjects. I think that's good, and about time!
"A good education either academic, technical or practical based leads to a reasonably well paid secure job" That's what I was trying to say, Michael. You may never become a millionaire- you may have as much (or a little more) money than you need and there's nothing wrong with that. Many vocational jons fall in to that category - teaching, nursing, social work etc. Just because you haven't made your first million by the age of thirty because you're not an entrepreneur doesn't mean that you're destined to be "a road fixer or gardener ". The country needs vocational workers just as much as it needs wealth generating entrepreneurs.
I say this cause i always remember a kid at school, now i was good at woodwork but had to work at it, but this kid could pick up two peices of wood and it really was like they were butter in his hands.anyway 50% of the exam was practical and 50% was written work.well this boy was dyslexic so could only get a grade c and yet the brainier kids got grade bs.yet they couldnt put two pieses of wood together.so the really skilled kid failed to get the grade he needed to go to college.i remember that kid very well and him crying.i felt so sorry for him
Actually movvi it does sound schools have changed more than i imagined.a hair saloon is good. I dont know though if your school just happens to be a good.but let me ask you a question.i want to be a plumber when i grow up and want to go on got for an apprentiship so what subjects should i take?? Geography history?the same goes for many core trades electrician. Carpenter etc.my way of schooling would include dyslexics those with autism and just those that are plain slow.to sum up i believe everyone is good at something, its finding that something and tapping into that something.
Hello Shaun. Poor guy - it's for those like him that we have such vocational courses. Now, in Year 9, he would be choosing academic courses (Geography, French, etc.)OR vocational ones (like childcare, health & social care, hair & beauty, etc.) OR a third option of engineering. All schools here have to offer a minimum of 32 options later in the 6th form - there were about 10 when I was at school! I don't know how it is in England, but I would hope it's moved on, too!
Our school is inclusive, too, Shaun, so whether it's Autism you have, or Cerebral Palsy, a wooden leg or two heads, you'd have options still. We offer ASDAN, a life skills course because to my thinking, it really is useless to be taught about volcanoes and earthquakes when what you really need when older is the ability to be safe, maybe have a job, know how to deal with money and how to prepare food. All the kids have individual educational plans, too, which are unique. It's looking up! I wish we could have our time again - maybe then my husband wouldn't have just finished retraining as a sparky at 36!
Windows Live User
Mick your using the bottom end I wrote- a road fixer a gardener etc. if had the time or inclination I would have built up the higher paying posts I know 5 self made richmen none of which excelled in education, but used their brains. Bought other peoples skills, Used other peoples monies to amass their monies. If we had a lot of more of such people then industries etc would flow, so why not give our kids that opportunity? Teach them to think different. Let them choose later whether they wish to use it or train in something else. Their choice - no harm in that approach.
Nothing like leaving the kids dangling when they're trying to choose their options and make choices for their futures........oh of course the government don't give a monkeys do they.
Windows Live User
One by one these dingbats come along with their ill conceived stupid plans to "change the world", and equally as fast they fix their "not fit for purpose" documents to the toilet wall by nail to be used for it's true purpose. The cost of their "exercise" must be massive each time. Who pays for it? Just how long are we going to suffer being told what to do by people who don't know what to do themselves?
They don't really have to care about the education systems they constantly meddle with when they pay for their own children's private education, do they? I'm all right, Jack...
U turn after u turn - how much time, effort and money can this lot waste?
There are not enough U-turns, start with :- The EU, then immigration then deporting criminals--- I could go on for hours.
Tries Hard, Could do better 0/10
Nowhere near hard enough.
Don't forget folks......'back door'!
this government don't want people educated, could be classed as a threat...stop ema and university fees through the roof etc...other countries send their brightest over here to get university education and fund this, after all they are the future...we don't seen to want to fund the future....china send thousands of students over every year...this is fact
Windows Live User
We should be worried that while the world grabs an education from us, we cant educate our own. People now just ticking boxes until retirement.
Robbie I assume that is why the have now chosen to keep a flawed system that most employers have little faith in - Give everyone GCSE no matter how stupid they are
Michael Gove is an absolute clown the damage he is doing to Education in England .his only objective to make it a land of Dopes and Tories .Time for the Lib/Dems to bring this disgusting coalition down before your party disappears.
Gove " seen as a potential future Tory leader" Oh dear !
people talk about "U-Turns".... it's gone beyond that. Now they're just circling..... the drain!
Everything for the coalition is a bridge too far. Trouble is they don't have the guts to cross the Rubicon.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This is an extremely welcome decision. "ASCL has never believed that GCSE is beyond repair and has been advocating this course of action for many months. ACSL ADMIT GCSEs ARE FLAWED - JUST PROVES WHAT MANY HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS - THEY ARE WORTHLESS
It is clear, after this laughable farce once again and new u-turn, why some would want to get on the bandwagon and criticise the educational establishment in its entirety. I think it's a bit harsh, though, to devalue GCSEs sweepingly. The courses are broad and there is a great depth within them. I'd be happy to explain the content of the English and English Literature courses to anyone in doubt of their quality or scope. It's very disheartening for pupils who work their butts off for these qualifications to hear those with a dim view of a system beyond their control or a general dislike of the young discredit their efforts.
Movvi from a report in 2011 Brittish teenagers have plummeted down an international education league table, sparking fresh fears that schoolchildren are failing to master the basics. They fell in a set of new rankings comparing reading, mathematics and science standards in 57 nations - accounting for 90 per cent of the world's economy. In reading, 15-year-olds in the UK dropped from seventh in 2000 to 17th, behind countries including Estonia and Liechtenstein. In maths, pupils fell from eighth to 24th - placing them below the international average. In science, secondary school students in the UK dropped from 4th to 14th. Hardly supports your claim. my understand from a conversation with my sister, a senior lecturer at a local education establishment that specialises in teaching those who the state education system has failed, is that the average educational standard of a school leaver is that of a 12 year old and continues to drop that basic. The problem now is that those 12 year old are now in the schools teaching
I am mystified how those having left school at an educational standard of 12 years old (therefore, presumably, with no GCSEs or A Levels) managed to get onto a degree course! How on Earth are they teaching in schools? If I thought this was true, as do you, I think I'd be doing something about it. You need to identify these and take some action! It is our duty as we feel so strongly. Children are the future.
"Children are the future." We are in trouble then with what the schools now call education
Just been on Edexel site looking at the marking instruction and sample GCSE English paper. I can now see why education standards are falling.
Ah, but Michael - you would be marked down for using "why" when you mean "how" on that very paper! I would never use Edexcel. I agree with you.
Movvi I failed English literature and language "O levels on the first attempt. The subject is difficult when you suffer from dyslexia My results in Latin and French were even worse Should I request that my papers are remarked, I would possibly get an A* now
How about we just axe Gove!
Just remind me who was in power between 2000 and 2011? And who fund s the party ? No conflict of interests them
Clegg grovelling to Goves. That is the 35th u-turn this inept coalition have made, the only promise they are keeping is the one to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer. They will not be happy until they take this country back to Victorian times. I know Labour cannot win the Hampshire by election it would take an impossible voter swing but come you people of Eastleigh give the coalition a " bloody nose"
"They will not be happy until they take this country back to Victorian times" When the country was wealthy - Industry was a world leader and profitable, we were world leaders in invention and engineering - the country was run by the uk government - teachers were respected Cant see anything wrong with that
Chidren used as slaves, women beaten by husbands and not allowed to vote for the politician's whose laws they had to obey. Nothing wrong with that Michael?
"Nothing wrong with that Michael?" if you say so Dave, Personally bring back those victorian values you think were so good is a little excessive
Well I'm glad I had my education years ago, wouldn't want these halfwits messing with it now.