Leading article: Not enough just to scrap GCSEs

 

Share
Related Topics

Not content with introducing free schools, shaking up A-levels and revamping the entire curriculum, the indefatigable Education Secretary has now set his sights on GCSEs. He has some good ideas, and some that need more thought.

Of the latest batch of typically radical proposals, there are two that stand out. The first is a structural issue. In future, Mr Gove wants there to be just one exam per subject, provided by a single board. Absolutely right. The current system is a nonsense, with a plethora of boards competing for schools' business and the incentives stacked towards an erosion of standards.

The second, more controversial suggestion is that GCSEs be abandoned altogether. Instead, says Mr Gove, there should be a choice between a more difficult, O-level-type exam and an easier option for the less able. The aim is a laudable one: there is, indeed, a need for more rigour in secondary education, and GCSEs have, without question, been devalued by rampant grade inflation and ever-easier questions. But there is also a real danger that returning to a two-tier exam system will entrench social divisions and relegate the non-academic to the educational scrapheap at the age of just 14.

Mr Gove responded to such concerns with characteristic brio yesterday. The key, he claims, is to foster a new culture of aspiration in schools and pupils alike. And he cites the example of Singapore, where four out of five children opt for the trickier of the two qualifications on offer. All well and good. But there will still be plenty of children who take the lesser, CSE-style test, even if they are only a minority.

There is an answer. In order for less academic pupils not to be abandoned by the system, more effort must go into providing high-quality vocational training. There has been progress, with the recent expansion of the University Technical College scheme. But even a near-doubling of the number of UTCs is still a long way from providing a genuine, nationwide alternative.

Mr Gove's plans to overhaul GCSEs may yet come to nothing, but he still deserves applause as a politician not afraid to tackle his brief head on. He must take on the gaps in Britain's technical education with similar gusto.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tory MP David Tredinnick arrives at 10 Downing Street  

Astrology wouldn’t just be a boon to the NHS – think how much better it could make MI5

Matthew Norman
 

Dear Nick: a personal letter to my wonderful husband

Rebecca Armstrong
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?