GCSE’s will be replaced by a new ‘English Baccalaureate Certificate’ in 2015, the government has confirmed.
After weeks of speculation, Michael Gove, Education Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg have announced in last night's Evening Standard – an article which was due to be timed to coincide with a statement by the Education Secretary in the House of Commons – that the existing GSCE exam and qualification will be replaced by the new European-style qualification for 14-16 year-olds.
After this summer’s GCSE English exam grading controversy and criticisms of ‘dumbing-down’ and lack of rigour in the exams from education commentators, the announcement serves to dispel the rumours that the government is intending to bring back an ‘O’Level and CSE style two tier system of examination. Instead, in what has come as a surprise to many, it looks like the English Baccalaureate or the ‘E Bacc’ is set to take the place of GCSEs by 2015, with the first students sitting the new exams in 2017 in the core subjects Maths, English and sciences.
In 1988, the GCSE replaced the ‘O’ level and CSE when 42.5% of entries received top grades. This year 69.4% received the A*-C grades; while this represents a tiny percentage drop in the top grades, the steady increase has prompted accusations of grade inflation from education commentators.
Writing jointly in the Evening Standard yesterday, Mr Gove and Mr Clegg said, “We need a new set of exams for students at the age of 16 — qualifications which are more rigorous overall and more stretching for the able but which also ensure the overwhelming majority of children can flourish and achieve their full potential.”
Later in the day, Mr Gove confirmed the plans and told MPs in the House of Commons that the changes would modernise the exam system, "so we can have truly rigorous exams, competitive with the best in the world, and making opportunity more equal for every child".
Mr Gove revealed more detail about the qualification explaining that it would be administered by a single exam board - a move to end the current competition between exam boards administering the GCSE which, according to Mr Gove, "has led to a race to the bottom with different boards offering easier courses or assistance to teachers in a corrupt effort to massage up pass rates."
There has been a positive response so far from employer representatives. Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said, "The Government is right to focus on delivering rigorous assessment in our school system, which is part of raising overall achievement. A rigorous system stretches and engages young people, but there is a wider debate, beyond the nature and function of exams at 16. That concerns what outcomes we expect our education system to deliver between the ages of 14 and 18."
More detail is expected as the proposals are put out for consultation.