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Gove Backs Down Over GCSE Replacement

In a surprise speech to the commons today, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he has abandoned plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

The move comes after mounting criticism of the reforms which had been due to come into force in 2015. At the heart of Mr Gove’s proposals had been the idea to focus on core-subjects and return to an end of year, exam-based approach, rather than the modular exams and emphasis on coursework that prevails in the current system.

Critics had complained that the pace of change was too fast, however, and that many of the reforms would prove unworkable, leading the Welsh government to announce that it would not be adopting the EBC. This coupled with organisations and prominent figures from both the vocational and creative industries who felt that the proposed qualifications’ focus on such a small core of subjects would leave many children excluded and underdeveloped. The final blow then landed last month when the influential Education Select Committee stated that it failed to see a case for dispensing with GCSEs.

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg was quick to chastise Mr Gove, labelling the announcement ‘a major U-turn’ before adding ‘"It shows why he should have listened to business leaders, headteachers and experts in the first place and not come up with a plan on the back of an envelope."

Speaking today, however, Mr Gove defended his decision to scale back his reforms and insisted that the majority of his measures would go ahead. Referencing his decision to limit each subject to just one awarding body, perhaps the most controversial aspect of his reforms, he said “one of the proposals I put forward was a bridge too far” and that it was “just one reform too many at this time”.

“We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement to Parliament today” said Raymond Clarke, Chief Executive of IQ. “There is much to applaud in the reforming zeal of Mr Gove but he was, in our opinion, mistaken in many aspects of his proposals and had failed to engage the sector properly.  As an organisation that has been actively lobbying against the idea of a single awarding organisation, and with concerns on the likely narrowing of the curriculum, IQ is delighted by the substantial changes that have been announced. It is to the credit of the government that they have listened to the concerns and responded so clearly and decisively to the consultation on the proposals.”

The full transcript of Mr Gove’s speech can be found here.

Feb 11, 2013 04:30 PM
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