English Baccalaureate plans from Michael Gove 'threaten to wreck' stability of entire examination system

Education Secretary's proposals come under fire

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans for a new English Baccalaureate threaten to wreck the stability of the entire examination system, MPs warn today.

In a devastating criticism of the proposals, MPs on the influential Commons education select committee tell Mr Gove that the Government “has not proved its case that GCSEs in the key academic subjects should be abolished”.

Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the committee, added: “We have serious concerns about the Government’s proposed timetable for change.

“Ministers want to introduce a new qualification, require a step-change in standards and alter the way exams are administered - all at the same time.  We believe this is trying to do too much, too quickly and we call on the Government to balance the pace of reform with the need to get it right.”

Today’s report, from an all-party committee of MPs, leaves Mr Gove almost without an ally in his plan to introduce the new EBacc. The committee, made up of five Conservative MPs, five Labour and one Liberal Democrat, backed the criticisms without dissent.

Ministers want to start teaching for the EBacc in schools from September 2015. It will first cover English, maths and the sciences and then take in languages and the humanities - history or geography.

Last night Mr Gove announced he would include computer science under the science umbrella of the EBacc in a move to stifle criticism - particularly from executive director of Google Eric Schmidt - that it was ignoring technology  However, that left the arts lobby claiming it would ruin the creative industries in the UK if arts and drama was still excluded.

In their report, the MPs say introducing so many fundamental reforms at the same time may threaten the stability of the wider examination system.

They accept that GCSEs need “significant improvements” to restore public confidence in the exam system  and praise moves to introduce more end-of-course assessment and restrict resits but argue:  “The Government still needs to make the case that the GCSE brand is so discredited that it is beyond repair.”

In particular, they are worried introducing the EBacc in only the core academic subjects will lead to other areas of the curriculum - such as arts, drama and religious education - being downgraded.

“We have concerns about the potential impact  ... on subjects outside the EBacc which will be left with ‘discredited’ GCSEs for some time to come,” they add.

“We have not seen any evidence to suggest the proposed changes will be more successful than GCSEs in addressing under-achievement or in narrowing the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged students and their peers.”

They also claim the proposals will do nothing for the 40 per cent of young people who fail to obtain five A* to C grades including English and maths. Lower attainers will be left with a “statement of achievement” which the MPs warn could be akin to a “badge of failure”.

“We do not see how raising the bar will automatically help these young people,” Mr Stuart added.

The MPs also criticise the fact the plans have been drawn up before details of the new national curriculum for secondary schools has been drawn up. “At the moment there is little clarity regarding the curriculum and educational outcomes that will be required of the new qualifications,” they add.

Teachers’ leaders last night welcomed the report with Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, saying: “This is a devastating critique of the Government’s policy.  Michael Gove will lack any credibility if his response is ‘I know best: carry on’.”

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, added: “Michael Gove has become the enemy of ambition.  This damning report supports Labour’s warning that the Tory-led government’s changes will do nothing to improve standards, especially for low attaining pupils,”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said:  “We have been clear that the secondary education system is in desperate need of a thorough overhaul - an objective with which the committee agrees.”

News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
News
news
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal