Headteacher warning over decision to scrap GCSEs
BY ANTHONY QUINN
A DUNGANNON school principal has given an advance warning about a radical shake-up of the GCSE system following a decision to scrap the exam in England.
The comments follow the decision by Education Secretary Michael Gove to introduce a new qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate.
It will mean a single end-of-course exam and one exam board for core subjects.
Pupils in England beginning secondary school this year will take the first new exams - in English, maths and sciences - in 2017.
However, Dr David Burnett, principal of Dungannon’s Royal School. said the decision to scrap some GCSEs in England could lead to an unequal system with the new exam given a higher status.
“In educational circles, everyone is talking about the introduction of the new exam, but at the moment all we have is a headline and no detail”, he said.
“There will be a shake-up of the system, but at the moment all we have is an intention to launch a more challenging exam, beginning with the core subjects of English, Maths, and the Sciences.
“GCSEs will continue to be available in other subjects.”
Northern Ireland’s Education Minister John O’Dowd is currently conducitng a reivew of the GCSE system, and it is not yet known what his plans are for the exam.
However, Dr Burnett said perceptions will play a key role in determining what format the exam will take in the future.
“If universities and employers view the new Baccalaureate as a more challenging exam, then market forces will take over, and parents will want their children entered for this exam.
“It will be a case of the Baccalaureate having more currency and being more creditable than GCSEs.
“Although we have yet to be furnished with the finer details of the Baccalaureate, it is likely that it will not be a modular exam, and will not rely on coursework.”
Dr Burnett said that GCSEs had lost value in the opinion of the public, and this was driving the changes.
However, he reassured parents that GCSEs were here to stay for the near future.
“If these changes do happen, it will not be for another four years. We have a good amount of time to look carefully at the changes and ensure that they are piloted in a controlled and measured way, which builds confidence.
Mr Gove’s announcement seems to have come as a surprise to Mr O’Dowd, who said: “It is disappointing to note that, once again, Michael Gove has failed to discuss in advance with the devolved administrations proposals of such significance on an issue which also concerns here, and indeed Wales also.”
Mr O’Dowd is now expected to carry out a review into GCSEs after the proposed changes to the English system with the possibility that the North could be forced down a similar route to ensure equality for their pupils.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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