State and private schools in 'movement' to scrap GCSEs

Qualifications have 'run their course', says former education secretary who introduced them Lord Baker.

Catherine Lough

exam hall

A campaign between state and private schools plans to launch a manifesto to end GCSE exams, branded by Lord Kenneth Baker as based on an "Edwardian" curriculum.

In a meeting of the group last week, Lord Baker, the former education secretary who helped introduce GCSEs, said he thought the exams had "run their course".

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"I think that they’ve run their course now. I’m in favour of them not continuing. We have an enormous chance this year, because there’s not going to be any – whatever we do we have to watch very carefully how this operates and try to prove to people that sort of regular assessment is just as good and just as effective – and there’ll be big feudal armies on both sides of that debate," Lord Baker said.

"In order to have an effect, we have to become a movement. We’ve somehow got to try and campaign as a movement to change fundamentally the direction of English education. It’s not just about an exam – the whole focus of EBacc and Progress 8 which is Edwardian, with an Edwardian curriculum, it’s word for word, the exact advice that was given to the board of education in 1904," he added.

The campaign draws together leading headteachers from both the state and private sectors. Peter Hyman, the co-founder of School 21 in Stratford; Gwyn ap Harri, co-founder of the XP School in Doncaster; and Neil Strowger, head of Bohunt School in Hampshire are all heads in the state sector championing the campaign.

And Sarah Fletcher, high mistress of St Paul's Girls' School in London; Magnus Bashaarat, head of Bedales School in Hampshire; Robert Lobatto, head of King Alfred School in London as well as representatives from Latymer Upper School and Eton College are seeking an alternative for the exams.

Leanne Forde-Nassey, headteacher at the Key Education Centre, which has two alternative provision schools in Gosport and Havant, is also behind the campaign. She said GCSEs did not serve her pupils well, and that when she had formerly taught in prison education, pupils would often miss vital parts of courses or exams.

"For me, GCSEs – especially now we have children staying in education until age 18, it’s an arbitrary, competitive process at that stage in their education, that means very little in terms of them getting to the next stage. Particularly because the results come out maybe a week before they are due to start college," she said.

Jonnie Noakes, director of teaching and learning at Eton College, said: "We need to teach people how to be fully flourishing human beings. That's my as my personal opinion about this. And part of the problem we have with GCSEs is that because we're so focused on GCSEs, all those other really important responsibilities, educators are getting squeezed out."

The group plans to launch a manifesto to end the study of GCSEs and engage in research on alternative models of assessment. 

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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