Plans to axe GCSEs are a kneejerk reaction to false claims exams are getting easier, West teachers warned last night.
They spoke out after Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he wants a new English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc) to be introduced from 2017.
The move came after the Liberal Democrats dropped their opposition to the biggest exam overhaul for two decades – although there were claims they had blocked a new two-tier system.
Mr Gove told MPs the changes would deliver “more rigorous” testing at 16, by scrapping retakes and drastically cutting back on assessing coursework in favour of tougher, end-of-year exams.
He insisted “urgent reform” was badly needed to stop English schools falling behind those abroad, and argued GCSEs had led to a “race to the bottom” of softer courses and “grade inflation”.
The new EBacc will be introduced first for English, maths and the sciences, from September 2015 and probably a year later, for history, geography and foreign languages, with the first exams sat in summer 2017.
Success in English, maths, science, a humanities subject and a language will be needed to pass the full English Baccalaureate, dubbed ‘Govelevels’ by critics. It will be sat by less able pupils at 17 or even 18, rather than 16, and be set by a single examination board for each subject.
Mr Gove told the Commons: “After years of drift, decline and dumbing down, at last we are reforming our examination system to compete with the world’s best.”
But Andy Woolley, South West regional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, told the Daily Press Mr Gove ought to have talked to those at the ‘chalkface’.
He said: “What they should be doing is consulting with the professionals.
“It appears that what is being suggested is a reaction to the view of some people that examinations are getting easier and we would contest that. This seems to be a kneejerk reaction to pressure from Conservative backbenchers.”
Mr Gove had wanted a return to a rigid two-tier system. The former chief inspector of schools Sir Chris Woodhead, who taught in the West in the 1970s, accused the Lib Dems of ruining Mr Gove’s reforms. He said exams should be made tougher and the original plan for a two-tier system was excellent – but the idea had been corrupted by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.