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Half of teachers do not support new-look GCSEs, TES poll finds

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More than half of teachers do not support the new-look GCSEs, a poll conducted by TES has found.

The survey reveals that 53 per cent of the 500 headteachers and teachers questioned were not in favour of the new GCSEs, which will be introduced from September this year.

Although 32 per cent said that they did support the new exams, 15 per cent said that they had not yet made up their minds.

Peter Kent, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that he was unsurprised by this. “It reflects a feeling among the profession that there’s been too much change,” he said.

“Teachers are looking at yet another set of changes with a sense of weariness and caution. There’s a sense of innovation fatigue and a need for a period of stability.”

The new GCSEs will be introduced from September onwards, beginning with English language, literature and maths. Pupils will be assessed almost entirely through end-of-course exams, which will be graded using a new numerical system, with pupils receiving a mark between 1 and 9. A grade 4 will be roughly equivalent to an existing C grade.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teaching union, believes that the TES poll reflects the weaknesses of the new exam.

“There are many learners to whose needs the new GCSEs do not respond,” she said. “They are too narrowly focused, and do not provide the basis for a rounded education.”

Nonetheless, the poll found that 71 per cent of teachers do support giving pupils GCSE exams at age 16. By contrast, 24 per cent said they did not support the exams. The remaining 5 per cent said that they did not know.

Mr Kent, of ASCL, says that this shows that teachers do not object to exams in principle, merely to the specific exams being introduced. “I think the profession is very good at coping with things,” he said. “But, for goodness sakes, let us get on with doing it. We don’t want any more externally imposed changes.”

Meanwhile, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, points out that existential discussion about the nature of GCSEs should not detract from the achievements of those pupils receiving their results tomorrow.

“GCSEs are not easy options,” she said. “They have never been dumbed down, and they have retained their value. Public examinations are stressful for all involved, and this needs to be recognised and respected.”

A DfE spokesperson said: "We are reforming GCSEs so they are more rigorous to ensure young people are getting the skills they need to secure good jobs and realise their potential. We consulted extensively with the teaching sector on the new qualifications. The vast majority of responses were from the teaching sector, including unions, and their views were taken into account.

"We recognise the scale of reform is significant but it is vital our children are getting the best possible start in life and that the qualifications they receive are on a par with the best in the world."

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