Fiona ChurchBy Professor Fiona Church, Executive Dean, Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences

The announcement of far reaching changes to the English examination system for secondary school students was not unexpected. For some time now, the Sec. State for Education has made it clear that the UK needs to improve standards. Questions have been raised over consistency between examination boards, grade inflation and the rigour of the GCSE examinations.

Gove’s announcement today outlines a new English Bac Certificate – comprising qualifications in English, mathematics, science, history, geography and languages. These will be wholly assessed by examination. The use of the Baccalaureate Certificate title is interesting, as Gove wishes this to be tested solely by examination. This differs from the well known European Baccalaureate which still incorporates coursework along with written and oral examinations which are spread across the year.

Gove argues that we need a radical solution to bring our students up to the required level of achievement to counter the current system which has ‘narrowed the curriculum, forced teachers to teach to the test and encouraged heads to offer the softest possible options’. Schools may argue that they are between a ‘rock and a hard place’ on this one – having to meet demanding targets and quotas, whilst trying to ensure their students are able to learn in a way which suits their particular needs and aspirations. Will the new qualification continue to encourage ‘teaching to the test’ as this will be the ultimate decider of student achievement?

I await the detailed proposal with interest and will follow the discussion as it develops.

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Fiona Church

Fiona Church

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences