OXFORDSHIRE headteachers have given Government plans to scrap GCSEs a mixed blessing.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that after 2016, 16-year-olds will no longer sit the qualification but will instead take a new English Baccalaureate Certificate.
The new qualification, which would be taught from 2015 with the first students completing the ‘EBacc’ in 2017, will have a stronger emphasis on final exams rather than coursework and will have five main subject areas, English, maths, science, languages and history or geography.
Banbury Academy headteacher Dr Fiona Hammans welcomed the reforms which she said more closely replicated the world of work.
She said: “We are really happy to hear there are going to be some changes.
“Coursework really doesn’t advantage children who come from backgrounds where there is not a tradition or understanding for support for academic work, so I am quite happy that is going to be taken out or reduced substantially.”
She hoped it would give more time for teachers to teach a subject rather than just meeting coursework criteria.
Modular units, which allow pupils to resit exams to improve their grades, are also to go.
Dr Hammans added: “I’m not sure retaking exams over and over again teaches youngsters anything about the real world other than they can keep getting it wrong or not doing it very well.
“Our experience tells us our kids respond when it’s high stakes and a one-off.”
But Wallingford School headteacher Wyll Willis was emphatically against the proposals, which he said were “dispiriting” and “wearying”.
He said: “Politicians always look for easy answers to complicated problems. I think GCSEs are a decent product that were slightly flawed. What needed to happen was some work around the grade boundaries to make sure the ‘drift’ stopped. Instead, the whole lot is going in the bin.”
He warned it would not help youngsters who were currently struggling to obtain academic qualifications.
He said: “My fear is I will spend the next five years working on something which will create a problem, then the next five years putting it right.”
Mike Reading, headteacher at Oxford Academy , said work clearly needed to be done to revise the existing qualifications.
He said: “I am encouraged by the fact we are not rushing into the changes.”
But he questioned whether the proposed final exam assessment would meet the needs for the future and the economy, and said there were some inconsistencies in what was planned.
He added: “It is commendable we want to make sure children have a high level of ability in critical skills for the future, but I do question where is RE and where are the arts?”