Is an Overhaul of GCSEs Right for Our Pupils?

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), June 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Is an Overhaul of GCSEs Right for Our Pupils?


Byline: JOANNE WELFORD joanne.welford@eveninggazette.co.uk

TEACHERS, employers and unions on Teesside gave a mixed reaction to a planned shake up in GCSEs announced by the Government yesterday.

And while some welcomed the moves - which aim to toughen up the exams - others called for more thought and planning before changes are made.

Ministers say a radical GCSE overhaul is needed if British students are to compete with their peers overseas.

Under the new proposals teenagers will be made to study the likes of Austen, Dickens, Shelley and Wordsworth.

Maths will include more algebra, statistics and probability while those taking history will be asked to complete an in-depth study of one of three historical periods and sit exams requiring extended essays.

Details were unveiled yesterday by the Government as part of its latest bid to toughen up the exams.

The new qualifications are due to be introduced in England in September 2015, with teenagers sitting the first exams in the summer of 2017.

There are also plans to overhaul grades with the current A*-G system axed and replaced by a numbered scheme.

Re-sits could also be curtailed and course work cut back in moves likely to be seen by many as a return to traditional exams, similar to old-style O-levels.

Debbie Clinton, Nunthorpe Academy principal, said: "A deep-rooted overhaul of GCSEs has been long-needed to enable the education sector and the teaching profession to ensure that all of our young people meet their full potential."

"A rigorous, stimulating and stretching examination framework is essential to furnish young people with the skills set necessary to pursue a satisfying career, or the knowledge to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the nation's economic development and prosperity. "The changes announced by Michael Gove will see GCSEs becoming more challenging and meaningful and help us close the gap that has opened up between us and our international education rivals.

"The reforms are both timely and sensible given that the first teaching of the planned new specifications will be in September 2015; sufficient time for good teachers to plan stimulating and challenging classroom experiences. Nunthorpe both welcomes the reforms and is excited by the challenge."

Pat Howarth, principal of Darlington's Hummersknott Academy, said: "Some of the proposals are to be welcomed, however they seemed to be based on the premise that standards have fallen.

"In my opinion this is a flawed premise. Our young people experience a far higher standard of education than in the past, work very hard and thus achieve more than when I was at school. …

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