Letter: GCSEs' success

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I am tempted to say that your leader "It's time to scrap our biggest exam failure: the GCSE" (26 August) is tilting at windmills. There is a strong argument for a coherent 14-19 curriculum. There is also an argument for identifying key skills. The proposal, however, to ditch GCSEs identifies the wrong problem.

School performance tables already exert enormous pressure on teachers to concentrate on students with potential GCSE grade Ds so that they can be shifted up a grade. Ofsted itself uses the numbers of students achieving five A-Cs in secondary schools as a criterion for deciding whether or not to conduct either full inspections or more frequent inspections.

Now we have government proposals for linking pupil test and exam results with teachers' pay. The number of A-Cs that teachers can gain for their pupils would be likely to be a significant criterion.

Only by ridding secondary schools of the skewing effect of high-stakes criteria linked to league tables, school inspection and teachers' pay will you also remove the pressure to concentrate on one set of pupils.

DOUG McAVOY

General Secretary

National Union of Teachers

London WC1

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