Fears grow over exams shake up

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A MASSIVE shake-up of the school exams system which will see GCSEs scrapped in certain subjects could disadvantage the majority of pupils, education leaders claim.

The GCSE will be replaced with the English Baccalaureate – starting in English, maths and science from 2015 – with a single end of course exam and one exam board for these core subjects.

The qualification would be extended later to other subjects and pupils who find the exams difficult could take them beyond the age of 16.

Headteachers and union leaders have hit out at an overhaul ‘designed for a minority’.

Graham White, secretary for the Suffolk branch of the NUT, said: “It’s so rigid that it’s only going to be suitable for the top 15 to 20 per cent of pupils.”

Hugh O’Neill, head at St Benedict’s Catholic School, in Bury St Edmunds, said he was ‘deeply uneasy’ that the new exam appeared to take a norm referenced basis, which is the number of pupils allowed to pass.

He said: “This is an exam that must not be passable to a substantial proportion of students.

“There is already recognition of the most able. What is more, less academic students also achieve recognition – lower grade passes at GCSE, enough to progress on to further education or training. It is deeply depressing that such students will now leave school without qualifications.”

Vicky Neale, of County Upper School, said care must be taken ‘not to devalue’ the current qualifications which will taken until the Ebacc exams are sat in 2017.

She added that education bosses ‘must not miss yet another opportunity’ to respond to the Wolf report, an independent review of vocational education, and recognise the need for ‘equally rigorous academic and techincal routes’.

Geoff Barton, of King Edward VI School, said the Government should be ‘sorting out the current fiasco’ over GCSE English grades. He said: “I think the name of it is wrong, the timing is unhelpful and the unseemly hast of the whole process very worrying.”