The Covid pandemic is being used by some to push a "reheated so-called progressive agenda" for education, including the abolition of GCSEs, the schools minister has claimed.
Speaking this morning at a Social Market Foundation event on "raising school standards through a knowledge-rich curriculum", Nick Gibb warned that scrapping exams would "take our education system back decades and, once again, fail the most disadvantaged children".
He advocated for a system built on "strong discipline" and "high expectations" – arguing that the disadvantage gap could be closed only if every school delivered these "key objectives".
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The government wants to use this approach to create a society where "argument and debate is based on evidence, rather than emotion", he added.
Scrapping GCSEs 'would fail the most disadvantaged children'
But Mr Gibb claimed that some had taken advantage of the pandemic to push for a different vision, including an end to GCSEs.
He said: "If we ensure that all our children are taught in schools with an extensive knowledge-rich curriculum by well-trained and supported teachers; in schools where strong discipline means that pupils are taught in a safe and caring environment with high expectations and where success is rewarded and celebrated; in schools that develop character and resilience; in schools that encompass the arts, languages, music and the humanities as well as science and maths; and in schools that give every child the knowledge that they are entitled to as part of their cultural inheritance...If every school delivers these key objectives, only then will we succeed in reducing the gap between children who come from backgrounds where the importance of education can sometimes take a backseat to the trials of day-to-day living, and those whose families have the time and ability to add to the education that their children receive at school.
"This approach is central to our plan to spread opportunity and to level up, and an important way in which we can rise to the challenge of creating a more inclusive and cohesive society, a society in which argument and debate is based on evidence, rather than emotion.
"And yet, some have been using the pandemic to argue for a different approach, for a reheated so-called progressive agenda, to abolish GCSEs, for example, which will take our education system back decades and, once again, fail the most disadvantaged children."