Geoff Barton

UK: Teachers and unions welcome GCSE U-turn

Thursday, February 7, 2013
5.31 PM

TEACHERS have reacted with joy at the Government’s GCSE U-turn.

The planned move to scrap the qualifications and replace them with an English Baccalaureate Certificate – unpopular with teachers since it was announced last September – was abandoned yesterday.

The reversal was announced by education secretary Michael Gove in the House of Commons, alongside curriculum changes. Mr Gove said plans for the new exams had been “a bridge too far”.

Geoff Barton, headmaster at King Edward VI High School in Bury St Edmunds, welcomed the news and said he hoped it was a sign the Department for Education was more willing to listen to teachers. He said: “It’s good to see recognition at last that politicians can’t dream up ideas on the back of a Whitehall envelope and expect them to work in the classroom.

“The woeful English Baccalaureate Certificate is a good example which had no support from parents, pupils, employers, universities, teachers or the examinations regulator, Ofqual.

“Let’s hope this is a sign that the Department for Education recognises that if it truly is for education then it needs to work with the profession to develop the best possible approaches for all students in all types of schools.”

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Gove confirmed the news and said his plans had been “one reform too many at this time”. He said: “Last September we outlined plans for changes to GCSE qualifications designed to address the grade inflation, dumbing down and loss of rigour in those examinations.

“We have consulted on those proposals and there is now a consensus that the system needs to change. But one of the proposals I put forward was a bridge too far.”

TEACHING union representatives from Suffolk and Essex have welcomed Mr Gove’s announcement and are now hoping for more climb-downs from the education secretary.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch secretaries Graham White, for Suffolk, and Jerry Glazier, who covers Essex, had been vocally opposed to proposals to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

Mr White said he thought it had been the strength of opposition that had prompted the Government’s U-turn.

He said: “If it had just been the unions or teachers, we would have been ignored – but it was MPs as well and the RSA and famous actors and actresses. So many people from such a wide range meant that he thought ‘it’s not that popular – I’m going to drop it’. “I hope that U-turns on things like academies, free schools, the proposed changes to A-levels, teachers’ pensions and changes to pay and conditions – which are horrendous – will come too. This is one step forward and we are really pleased he has made a sensible decision but there are a lot more sensible decisions he needs to make.”

Mr Glazier added: “We were prime ‘movers and shakers’ in the campaign against the EBC and we very much welcome Michael Gove’s U-turn. I think the pressure on him was compelling.

“It’s a very significant climb-down from a secretary of state who has a very clear ideological zeal for exam reform and the fact that he has been forced to abandon the proposals should not be underestimated – he had really nailed his colours to the mast.”