Redbridge headteachers concerned over new qualification set to replace GCSEs

Redbridge headteachers are treating government plans to scrap GCSEs in core subjects with caution.

Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education, announced the plans for GCSEs in maths, english and science to be replaced with the new English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) last week.

Pupils currently in year seven will take the first exams in 2017 if the proposals are approved.

Mr Gove said the new qualifications would reform the system to compete with the world’s best after “years of drift, decline and dumbing down”.

But concerns have been raised over aspects of the Ebacc, which would be assessed without coursework and modules, and with no higher and foundation tiers.

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Michael Capon is the headteacher of the selective Ilford County High School in Barkingside.

He said: “It’s not a good idea for pupils to go into an exam expecting to score less than half marks. There’s a sense of underachievement.

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“Young people shouldn’t be spoon-fed, they should be challenged. But young people don’t all succeed in the same area and shouldn’t we be dedicated to supporting diversity?”

Mr Gove said that the Ebacc will combat grade inflation, but Mr Capon said rising marks reflect improved teaching.

He added: “It comes back to a fundamental question that Michael Gove seems to be avoiding.

“What are exams for? If exams at 16 are supposed to decide what young people move on to do then grade inflation could be a problem.

“But if the purpose is to assess and reward what they have learnt, then inflation is a natural result if the teaching profession is doing its job better.”

Spencer Lewis, headteacher at King Solomon High School in Barkingside, was also concerned for children with different abilities.

He said: “I support a more rigorous assessment system so that students are stretched and challenged and so that the percentage of A* and A grades really mean something.

“I am, however, very concerned about those for whom academic study is more difficult, who require different approaches to learning and assessment, those to who we currently offer vocational courses as well as core subjects.”

Dr Paul Doherty, headteacher at Trinity Catholic School in Woodford Green, thinks the new system looks “messy”.

He said: “We should have national exams with national criteria and a national syllabus.

“There’s a strong whiff of big business in these reforms.”

Dr Doherty was also concerned for pupils taking the last GCSEs before the qualifications are scrapped.

He said: “If you issue a �20 note it should be a �20 note. You shouldn’t take it to the bank to find out it’s suddenly worth �5.”

The government is opening a consultation on the proposals before details are finalised.

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