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

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The day that Britain resigned as a global power  

The day that Britain resigned as a global power

Fareed Zakaria
 

Daily catch-up: Liz Kendall speaks to the Westminster press pack – kamikaze or courage?

John Rentoul
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable