Standard exams cut in favour of 'shorts'

19th May 2000 at 01:00
Sarah Cassidy reports on controversial proposals to change the subjects that can be studied by GCSE candidates

THIRTY GCSE titles are to be scrapped as part of a major overhaul of the exam system, under plans being considered by the Government's exam quango.

Art, design and technology courses have been the worst hit by the proposals from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which aim to streamline the exams for September 2001.

The proposals have also dealt the British car industry another blow - the Government's exam regulators hope to scrap the only "academic" course specialising in car design.

The QCA plans to withdraw GCSE status from a range of job-related subjects including farming, sailing, communication studies and home economics (consumer studies). Officials argue that the subjects have few candidates and would be better served by vocational qualifications.

Plans to scrap GCSE agriculture and horticulture and nautical studies have already attracted a storm of protest from schools.

Campaigners have criticised the QCA for consulting only 300 schools but sending 1,200 questionnaires to unions, subject associations and training organisations.

Andy Cadman, a senior teacher at High View school in Derby, hasset up a website ( to campaign for the subject's retention.

The most demanding GCSE maths course is also to be axed because bright pupils are to be encouraged to start the new-style A-levels early.

Under the proposals all "combination" courses - such as GCSE French and business studies will also be axed. Instead pupils will be expected to study two separate "half GCSEs".

The number of "short courses" on offer is to be nearly doubled from 18 to 30 by September 2001, because of their increasing popularity. The new subjects will include business studies, electronics, photography and dance.

Entries for the short courses leapt by 16 per cent on the previous year to 240,617 last summer.

Introduced in September 1996, short courses are set at the same standard as GCSE but take half the study time. Short-course exams often use the same questions and examination papers as conventional GCSEs.

The same A* to G grades and standards are used for both short-course and standard GCSEs. Short courses are recorded as half a GCSE in performance tables.

A QCA spokesman said: "No final decisions have been made."



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