Teachers warn of ‘incalculable damage' from Michael Gove’s reforms to A-level and GCSE qualifications

Education Editor

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has been accused by head teachers of causing “incalculable damage” to the education system through his reform of A-level and GCSE qualifications, which scrap coursework.

Delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) annual conference in Birmingham unanimously backed a motion urging him to review his plans, which will affect teaching in schools from September 2015.

Under the plan, coursework during the two-year run-up to exams will be ditched, with the emphasis instead put on written end-of-course testing.

Alan Mottershead, a member of the NAHT executive and head of Trinity School, Carlisle, proposing the motion, said: “The damage this may do to a balanced curriculum across secondary education, particularly in GCSE and A-level years, is incalculable.”

He added that the reliance on end-of-course exams would make the qualifications merely “a feat of memory recall”, adding: “These exams will be even more of an unreliable and unrepresentative picture of a student’s work or real ability.”

Pupils, he said, would be told “learn this and make your answer look like that”, as teachers tried to get the best results for their school. “It will also deny the richness, curiosity, wonder, questions and many other things that characterise a real education,” he added.

“What we seem to be doing here is going for a throwback to O-levels, CSEs and back to written exams only.”

Rob Campbell, chairman of the NAHT’s secondary schools committee and head of Impington Village College, Cambridge said: “We should be preparing people for a world that is dynamic, demands greater flexibility and is about enterprise and creativity.

“I believe our curriculum and assessment should mirror those conditions. Therefore the planned changes... are a retrograde step and I deplore them. I can’t believe parents will want their children to be assessed exclusively and once and for all through an exam at the end of a course.”

He said the end-of-course exams would last for three hours, which – for pupils with special needs given extra time to finish their papers – meant three and three-quarter hours sitting in exam conditions. “I don’t think any of us in this hall have ever sat an examination for that long,” he said.

Heads of special schools warned there would be no way their pupils would be able to pass their exams under the new system.

Tim Gallagher, manager of a referral unit in Wolverhampton for pupils excluded from school, said he gave his students portfolios of their coursework to help them return to mainstream education by showing the progress they had made.

“Under this new framework, they are doomed to fail,” he said. “This is pernicious, this new way of doing things.”

Head teachers also backed a move to demand that all schools, including those in the independent sector, give priority to disadvantaged pupils in deciding admissions. Private schools, they argued, should be encouraged to do so to justify their charitable status.

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: After School Club Worker

£40 - £45 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client in the Newp...

Randstad Education Cardiff: English Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education Cardiff is...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin