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Lincoln MP Karl McCartney defends radical overhaul of GCSEs

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 21, 2012

  • GCSEs will be axed and replaced with the English Baccalaureate Certificate from Autumn 2015

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Conservative MP for Lincoln Karl McCartney has defended radical reforms to the secondary school examination system.

Education secretary Michael Gove has revealed GCSEs will be axed and replaced with the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc).

Mr Gove said the change would deliver more rigorous testing at 16 by scrapping re-sits and cutting back on coursework in favour of end-of-year exams.

From autumn 2015, pupils will be taught the new EBacc in English, maths and science with the first exams in 2017.

And from 2016, pupils will also be taught the new EBacc in history, geography and languages. Concerns being raised include claims the EBacc will leave less academically gifted pupils "on the scrap heap".

But Mr McCartney said the reforms will provide a more "solid grounding" for pupils.

He said: "We have seen pass rates in GCSEs increase exponentially, however the current system does not prepare school leavers adequately for either university or college life, nor the world of work.

"The new EBacc will focus on traditional subjects which will provide a solid grounding.

"I also feel that other subjects could benefit from such a thorough process and I support the Government's decision to ask Ofqual to investigate whether these new higher standards could be applied to a new set of qualifications to replace the entire suite of GCSEs."

However, head teachers and officials across Lincolnshire have raised concerns.

Branston Community Academy's principal Peter Beighton said: "Surveys show that most parents of young people in secondary schools are happy with the quality of education their children are receiving. So the need for major reforms is, at the very least, debatable.

"In contrast to some of the views I have read, my experience is that young people collectively are more engaged with education than ever.

"The proposed changes could make it more difficult for many of our students to remain motivated by, and connected to, the public examination system."

Labour's prospective MP for Lincoln Lucy Rigby warned the proposed reforms were outdated.

She said: "Our exam system has to prepare young people for the modern economy and exams need to be rigorous – I'd welcome any changes to the current system that do this.

"However, the scrapping of GCSEs is more 1980s than 21st century – even former Conservative education secretary Ken Baker has said as much."

Meanwhile, Patricia Bradwell, the executive councillor for children's services at Lincolnshire County Council, said the EBacc still had time to be properly developed before it is introduced.

"I hope to see rigorous examinations which are fit for purpose," she said. "It is vital all abilities and capabilities are assessed and that these help young people demonstrate their skills and knowledge.

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  • Gnome_Chomsky  |  September 21 2012, 10:24PM

    Ideological decisions are rarely good ones. Mr Gove has already had one go at introducing an English Baccalaureate by bundling together his preferred choice of GCSE subjects and retrospectively judging schools on whether they achieved an arbitrary standard. Now he wants to create a new exam, also the English Baccalaureate (Can anybody else see why the people of Wales, who also currently use GCSEs, are stirring up and looking at independence again?). The thinking behind it is instructive. Mr Gove thinks not enough pupils are studying core subjects like maths, English and science. He thinks subjects like media, child care and sociology are too easy. He thinks GCSEs are too easy. He wants to be known for introducing a new, more rigorous exam system. So what could possibly go wrong? Hard exams in subjects we want young people to study, or easy exams in what he sees as waste of space subjects? Who would take a hard science exam if they could as easily take a walkover psychology exam? Schools are under pressure to get results. How many will pressure children to do maths and not get the necessary grade, when they could as easily help them get A* horse husbandry? If he had spent a few minutes thinking about what he wanted to achieve, rather than scribbling a few ideas on the back of an envelope because his peer group do not use state schools anyway (unless they can convert a 'public' school to a free one so his own Government pays the fees rather than his friends), he would have prioritised the more rigorous exams in subjects he does not want students to pursue, and left the easier GCSE science, maths and English for a later date. This would also have the advantage of 'throwaway' courses suffering the glitches of rushed introduction, so he could iron out the creases before unleashing his fundamental zeal on 'important' subjects. Mr Gove has no interest in the students affected by this change. He just wants to make his own colleagues' children look better. If you doubt me, check out how many English public (i.e. 'private') schools offer the International Baccalaureate, or even how powerful the French Baccalaureate is in achieving UK university places. There are perfectly good models out there, but Mr Gove would not be credited with their introduction.

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  • InsideStory  |  September 21 2012, 6:17PM

    Coming from a yes man nothing surprises me he will agree to anything his lord and masters do to get recognition.

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  • MrAWG45  |  September 21 2012, 3:45PM

    Karl Mccartney agrees with his overlords. That's not news. That's careerist opportunism. As are the proposals by The Slithy Gove. They are not about improving education, they are playing to the reactionary forces in the right wing of his party in an attempt to boost his chances of taking over as leader when Cameron is sacked after losing the next election. The 'reforms' are a retrograde step for many reasons - terminal exams will disadvantage girls who, typically, do better at coursework; the EBacc has no place for modern subjects such as ICT, Business Studies or Media (Media being a bigger employer in Britain than coal, steel and the automotive industry put together) but it does have place for Latin, Ancient Greek and Hebrew; The EBacc will create a two tier society - those who are good at regurgitating facts at the age of fifteen and those who aren't. We will create a society that can recite poems and mathematical formulae by heart but can't change a plug. In other words, a society with the skills of the upper class who can't even dress themselves.

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