From education to employment

Sector responds to Gove’s GCSE u-turn

Education Secretary Michael Gove has scrapped controversial plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate certificate (EBC).

The proposals had prompted widespread concern from the FE sector that it could herald a return to a two tier system of exams at 16.

Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), welcomed the climbdown as a step in the right direction.

“We know that hundreds of thousands of learners have benefited from excellent teaching and learning in our diverse further education and skills sector, and have developed the skills and behaviours that businesses want and that help them succeed in life and work,” said Fazaeli.

“We need more of this, through the right range of GCSEs and vocational qualifications, not the narrow diet inherent in the old ideas for the English baccalaureate, which have now been abandoned.”

The move was also welcomed by Debbie Ribchester, 14-19 and curriculum senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC).

However, Ribchester warned that although EBCs had now been scrapped the position of the EBacc remains unclear. According to the AoC, if this performance measure remains it will drive behaviour in schools, limiting the range of subjects studied, and consequently narrowing pupils’ aspiration and progression to study programmes post-16.

She continued: “If, however, this is being replaced by proposals to use an average point score across eight GCSE subjects this would appear to be a more balanced approach to performance measurement at 16. It recognises achievement across a broader range of subjects than the EBacc and will reduce the perverse incentives on schools and academies to ‘teach to the tables’.”

Chris Jones, chief executive of the City & Guilds awarding body, echoed the concern over the uncertainty facing the sector after Gove’s dramatic U-turn over GCSE reform.

“Although we welcome the government’s decision to shelve plans for introducing EBCs, I am concerned that the proposed reforms to GCSEs will do little to prepare young people for employment – which ultimately should be the end goal of all education,” said Jones.

“While it is encouraging to see the Government announce a broader criteria for measuring student performance, rather than just the narrow Ebacc measure of five academic subjects, we hope they take the opportunity to ensure the views and needs of employers are included in any changes to the GCSE curriculum. Whichever educational route a young person takes, it must include employability skills each step of the way. It’s vital that vocational, work-based qualifications, contextualised learning and general employability skills are taken into account so that we can provide the skills businesses need to grow now and in the future.”

Natalie Thornhill

(Pictured Education Secretary Michael Gove)

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