Tuesday 19 February 2013

Is Gove's GCSE U-Turn Enough?

Another week, another controversy in the Department for Education.

After criticism from teaching unions, academics and fellow MPs, Michael Gove has withdrawn his plans to replace the GCSE with English Baccalaureate certificates in key subjects from 2015. The Commons Education committee had said that Mr Gove had been trying to implement "too much too soon". In his Commons speech reversing his plans, Gove did, however, say that he has asked Ofqual to ensure new GCSEs would be in place by 2015 in seven subject areas: English, maths, the sciences, history and geography. GCSEs for all remaining subjects would be reformed by the following year.

Now, the head of England's exam regulator Ofqual has warned that these changes may be too rapid. Glenys Stacey has replied to Mr Gove, saying that she will delay the education secretary's GCSE changes if there are problems with the timetable. She continued "The timetable for qualifications development that you have set out is challenging." She expressed concerns about maintaining the quality of qualifications if drafting new curricula within such a short timeframe and pointed out that she would be conducting her own consultation with the exam boards.

Other criticism has come from the head of the Mathematical Association, Peter Ransom. He pointed out that "The 2015 schedule for implementation is so ambitious that no time will be available for piloting, reflection and refinement."

Dr Kevin Stannard from the Girls' Day School Trust expressed concerns that many aspects of Michael Gove's Baccalaureate plans may still be pushed through in the GCSE reform "on the mistaken assumption that the DfE has done a U-turn."

The Department for Education maintains that it will act quickly in order to address a loss of rigour in GCSEs.

All of this comes on top of stories about bullying by Michael Gove's special advisers and controversial plans for the privatisation of academies.

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