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East Lancashire headteachers say scrapping GCSEs would be retrograde
EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove has sparked a row by announcing a plan to axe GCSEs in favour of the O level and CSE system they replaced.
He said change was vital to improve standards for school leavers and those heading for sixth form or college.
But his idea, which saw him hauled before the Commons to explain himself, has enraged Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg whose party accused Mr Gove of trying to go back to a two-tier system.
With Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw calling the idea ‘retrograde’ and saying it would go back to the days of ‘categorising children as sheep or goats’ in their teens, the Lancashire Telegraph asked local headteachers for their views.
The majority, all state-school heads, were opposed with only Simon Corns from Blackburn’s independent QEGS in favour. But even he said he had reservations about going back to a second-class CSE-style qualification for those denied the chance to sit new-age O levels.
While eight other heads were in favour of moves to improve exam standards and consistency, and many backed Mr Gove’s other idea of a single examination board for England, there was no enthusiasm for a split curriculum at 13 and separate exams at 16.
Even Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson said: “It’s a very interesting idea but I cannot say whether I support it until we see what is being proposed.”
Nigel Dawson, Fearns Community Sports College, Rossendale.
“This is potentially a significant change to the ethos underpinning education. I am very concerned that this needs to be very carefully thought through and far more detail is required before I can endorse what, at face value, seems a retrograde step.”
Tim Mitchell, Norden High School, Rishton.
“I can see good reason for limiting the number of examination boards. We also need to address the constant ‘complaint’ that examinations are in some way easier than those sat by our generation. I would be opposed to any two-tier academic qualifications as I feel that we will be in danger of ‘labelling’ young people far too early.”
Simon Corns, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn.
“There is certainly a problem with GCSEs. If the logic is to reinstate rigorous academic qualifications, I am all in favour. What I would be nervous about without knowing the detail is what happens to the CSE bit. That was not a good qualification. A simplistic reinstatement of that would concern me.”
David Whyte, St Wilfrid’s Church of England Academy, Blackburn.
“Making a return to two tiers of O levels and CSEs would be divisive and not inclusive. I would not be in favour of that happening but I am in favour of having a single exam board for the whole country to ensure that the same high standards are maintained across all students.”
Brendan Loughran, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy.
“I am not in favour of replacing GCSEs with the old-style O levels, however I am in favour of the move to one examination body. My concern on the announcement of a possible return to O levels is that there has been little or no consultation on these proposals, presumably ‘leaked’ to grab headlines.”
Arnold Kuchartshuk, West Craven High Technology College, Barnoldswick.
“The people I have taught in my many years in Craven have gone on to become doctors, nurses, accountants and many run their own businesses. They have achieved that through the current system. There is nothing wrong with looking for improvement but going back to O levels would not be right.”
Alasdair Coates, St Christopher’s CE High School, Accrington.
“This seems to be about grabbing a headline. Most schools divide pupils into taking Foundation GCSEs and GCSEs so if this is about dividing the sheep from the goats, this happens. This seems to be about nomenclature and perception and if it is about going back to some mythical golden age I am not in favour.”
Anthony McNamara, St Augustine’s RC High School, Billington.
“Michael Gove's ideal system appears to be a return to the prep schools of the 1950s. This was a ‘Golden Age’ that never existed for the majority. Thatcher axed O levels and CSEs in 1988 because they were seen to be divisive and failing to meet the needs of a modern economy. Gove's plans will restrict social mobility."
Mark Jackson, Haslingden High School.
“A move back to O levels and CSEs would be a retrograde step and mark a return to the two-tier education system of the 1970s which did nothing for the life chances of huge numbers of young people. The introduction of GCSEs was a significant move forward, levelling the playing field for generations of students.”
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