Richard Gerner: How will these reforms help the bottom 40 per cent succeed?

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The Independent Online

The first thing to say about the proposed reforms is there is a potential for improvement on the present system there. At least the requirement to get Liberal Democrat support for the package has put paid to the idea that you should have a worthless "son of CSE" for struggling pupils to go alongside the "son of O-levels" proposed by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

They will also, by focusing on the five English Baccalaureate subjects, be a further spur to increasing the take-up of subjects vital to the future of the UK economy. That said, I share some of the reservations expressed by Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg about the package.

It is difficult to see how these proposals – if they are the only show in town – will give those 40 per cent of pupils who at present fail to gain five A* to C grade GCSEs a worthwhile qualification to take to employers.

The best proposal for giving equal weight to the academic and vocational sides of education that is so vital to students' futures, came from the former chief schools inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson in his inquiry into the last exams fiasco a decade ago.

It recommended an over-arching diploma which would recognise a pupil's academic achievements and their vocational achievements. By all means make the exams more rigorous but do not forget the bottom 40 per cent while you do it.