British Education secretary in climbdown over plans to axe exams
BRITISH Education Secretary Michael Gove has been forced into a "humiliating climbdown" over his plans to axe GCSEs, Labour said today.
The flagship plan to ditch the exams and replace them with new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) in core academic subjects are said to have been abandoned following widespread opposition and pressure from within the coalition from the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Gove will today set out alternative proposals to reform GCSEs, which are taken by hundreds of thousands of teenagers every year.
The U-turn was hailed by one union leader as a victory for those who campaigned against the plans.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said Mr Gove should have listened to warnings that the scheme would not work.
"This is a humiliating climbdown from Michael Gove," he said.
"It shows why he should have listened to business leaders, head teachers and experts in the first place and not come up with a plan on the back of an envelope.
"Pupils and parents need certainty now. Michael Gove must now make clear whether he will abandon his narrow, out-of-date plans altogether or merely try to delay them.
"He needs to go back to the drawing board and develop a curriculum and exam system that meets our future challenges as a country."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it was "encouraging" that Mr Gove had listen to those who had urged him to think again.
"We have never believed that GCSE is beyond repair and have been urging the Government for many months not to abandon it."
He added: "All students need access to appropriate qualifications that are fit for purpose. A one size fits all examination will help neither the most nor the least able.
"The reformed GCSE must be rigorous but it also must be relevant to students of all ability levels, whether they are going straight into work, a high-level apprenticeship or to university."
Mr Gove originally wanted to introduce EBCs in England in English, maths, science, foreign languages, history and geography.
Each of the core subjects would have been handed to a single examination board - a move he argued was essential to prevent boards "dumbing down" standards to attract more schools.
However according to reports in the Independent and the Daily Telegraph, officials warned the plan could fall foul of EU procurement rules.
The proposals, announced in September, drew criticism and concern from MPs across the political spectrum, as well as exams regulator Ofqual and teachers and head teachers' unions.
Last week the cross-party Commons Education Committee said the Government had "not proved its case" that GCSEs should be abolished in key academic subjects.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he did not like the original plan, which he described as "a two-tier system where you tell one set of kids you are not bright enough to proceed".
"I didn't like that, I've always wanted an approach to exam reform and qualification reform and curriculum reform that is ambitious for higher standards, and I'm totally at one with Michael Gove on this. We need to do as well as the best countries around the world do," he said on his weekly LBC radio phone-in.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "This is a victory for all those who have campaigned against this ill thought-out reform to GCSEs.
"The Education Secretary must now learn a lesson from this fiasco and consult with those who know far more than he appears to do about education."