Gove's sharp 'U-turn' over EBCs is rather telling

15th February 2013 at 00:00

While many welcomed the education secretary's admission that the scrapping of GCSEs for replacement with English Baccalaureate Certificates was a "bridge too far", the significance of the main factor that thwarted his ambition should give no cause for celebration.

Far from Gove's U-turn being prompted by negative responses to the consultation, the awarding bodies have once again paralysed policy development by playing their "free market in examinations" card. I am struck by the complications caused in our national assessment system by the proliferation and influence of examining and awarding bodies.

I have never understood why the national examination and qualification system is left to the vagaries of free market economics. I find myself in agreement with Gove on very little, but if he suspected that rigour was lost and grade inflation was promoted by excessive competition between the main awarding bodies then he would have, at least, got something right. Unfortunately, either his or his civil servants' distaste for even well-run national monopolies has got the better of his ambitions.

So it's back to the 19th century and sterile, reductionist arguments about academic rigour and the primacy of a subject-based curriculum. In the real world, of course, young people are living in the 21st century.

Adrienne Carmichael, Kendal, Cumbria.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today