The DfE has published education secretary Michael Gove’s statement to parliament about the reforms to Key Stage 4 exams on its website…
With your permission Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the future of examinations and assessment in our schools.
The examination which the overwhelming majority of young people sit at 16 – the GCSE – was designed with the best of intentions. It sought to broaden the numbers engaging in academic study and prepare for an expansion of further and higher education.
In the years since it was established we have undoubtedly seen improvements in our education system – and those responsible – heads, teachers, parents, students and reformers like Kenneth Baker and Andrew Adonis – deserve our praise.
But the GCSE was conceived – and designed – for a different age and a different world.
A time before majority participation in higher education, a world where information technology was in its infancy. When the GCSE was first taught the school leaving age was still 16, state planned economies dominated half the globe and the internet was a work of science fiction.
Now that we are raising the education participation age to 18, now that nations which were slow developers 20 years ago are outstripping us economically, and now that ways of learning have been so dramatically transformed in all our lifetimes, it is right that we reform our examination system.
Because we know that the old model – the eighties model – is no longer right for now. We know that the record increases in performance at GCSE have not been matched by the same level of improvement in learning – while pass rates have soared we have fallen down the international education league tables.
We know that employers and academics have become less confident in the worth of GCSE passes – they fear students lack the skills for the modern workplace and the knowledge for advanced study.
We know that children’s achievements are not properly recognised – with even the Hon Member for West Derby – an education minister in the last Labour Government – admitting under duress that there was grade inflation under that Government.
And we know – most recently – and most tellingly – that changes made to GCSEs under the last Government – specifically the introduction of modules and the expansion of coursework in schools – further undermined the credibility of exams – leaving young people without the rigorous education they deserved.
Only last week the OECD reported that in the years up until 2010 our education system still had not been reformed enough to keep pace with the best in the world.
Critical to reform is ending an exam system that has narrowed the curriculum, forced idealistic professionals to teach to the test and encouraged heads to offer children the softest possible options.
It is time for the race to the bottom to end. It is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. It is time to raise aspirations and restore rigour to our examinations.
Read the entire statement at: Education Secretary Michael Gove’s oral statement about the reform of Key Stage 4 exams