In the news - GCSEs to be axed in favour of return to O levels

GCSE qualifications are to be scrapped as part of the government’s wide-ranging schools reforms.

The move was revealed in a Department for Education memo, leaked to The Daily Mail, which says that the exams would be replaced with a qualification more closely resembling the old O level.

In the news - 21 June

GCSEs to be axed in favour of return to O levels


GCSE qualifications are to be scrapped as part of the government's wide-ranging schools reforms.

The move was revealed in a Department for Education memo, leaked to The Daily Mail, which says that the exams would be replaced with a qualification more closely resembling the old O level.

"The Department for Education expects that existing GCSEs will disappear … Those starting GCSEs in 2013 are the last pupils who will have to do them," the document states.

As well as the decision to abolish GCSEs, the memo also discloses that the government plans to abolish the national curriculum at the secondary level and that students will now be set exams by a single exam board. In addition, less academically able pupils would take simpler exams, similar to the old CSE qualification.

The Department for Education said that it did not comment on leaks. After an urgent question in the House of Commons, education secretary Michael Gove stopped short of confirming the contents of the memo but said that GCSEs "prioritised bite-sized learning over deep understanding" and that the department was committed to ensuring that exam boards could not compete "based on how easy their exams are".

Mr Gove added that there would be a consultation on school reform issued shortly.

Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary, said that while he supported a "robust, rigorous and broad curriculum", he felt that Mr Gove needed to explain his changes to parents and pupils alike: "Will going back to O levels for some and CSEs for the rest really improve standards for all?

"With no secondary national curriculum how will he ensure a rigorous approach to learning in all schools? When the Tories abolished O levels and introduced GCSEs in the 1980s they said standards would rise. Now they say they've fallen."

Dale Bassett, research director at the independent think-tank Reform, said that he was wary of the idea of a monopoly exam board, as it suggested that competition between exams boards was at the root of the problems with GCSEs.

"The problems are down to government regulation of the exams and, broadly, a sense that what matters is the quantity of exams passed rather than their quality," he said.

However, he added that the news that GCSEs were to be scrapped was "a u-turn, but a very welcome one".

"Michael Gove…is reversing the core idea of Conservative education policy since 1988 that GCSEs and a National Curriculum would guarantee a good education for all secondary pupils. That hasn't happened."

Kenneth Durham, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, said that the organisation welcomed the move to increase academic rigour "in principle", but urged the government to exercise care, consultation and forethought when implementing any changes.

"A knee-jerk return to a nostalgic 'golden age' of O levels run by a state monopoly examination board is naïve and will suit nobody."

"Revolutionary for sure, but has Mr Gove really thought this through?' - Will Stewart analyses Gove's GCSE plans

"Please reconsider your disastrous O-level plans, Mr Gove" - Francis Gilbert on the differences between GCSE & O level


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Have strong views about the proposals for a new type of O level? We are turning our "Great A-level debate" into the Great Exams Debate.
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Teachers are already busy debating Gove's O-level plans in the TES forums:


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Time to bury O levels: from the TES archive – June 12, 1987



Forum reactions so far


Gove seems determined to throw more kids on an educational scrapheap. He really hasn't got a clue.
Compassman

On the whole it's worth doing I think. We lose the pretence of having 'one exam for all' - having higher or lower tiers vs O-Levels/CSE is an issue of nomenclature. Pupils aren't stupid and realise the lower tier set/exam group aren't as smart as the upper tier group.
Autismuk

So the National Curriculum is scrapped in secondary schools to allow those schools/teachers more freedom on what to teach, however English/maths/science will be run by a single Exam Board. That Board will set the syllabus and have it approved by .. ??
mistermario

Up until now I thought Gove was a fool. Now I realise he's much, much more dangerous than that.
Captain Obvious


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