‘New exam system will favour better schools’

editorial image

A headteacher has welcomed a shake-up of the GCSE exams system – but fears the new regime could leave behind youngsters from less privileged backgrounds.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced this week that the GCSE exam in England is to be replaced for core subjects by a qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate.

The change will mean a move away from coursework – which in some subjects can account for up to 40 per cent of a student’s final grade – back to a single end of course exam rather than modular assessments.

Kings Langley School headteacher Gary Lewis, who is also chair of the West Herts Association of Secondary Headteachers, said: “The big issue is that once you go back to an exam system that is very much dominated by academic students by definition you put the power back into those children that go to better schools, private schools, selective schools and schools in better socio-economic areas.”

It comes at a time, he says, when the number of children from working class backgrounds going to university is not increasing and the new £9,000 fees will no doubt see more deciding against further education.

Mr Lewis said teachers are getting better at training students to pass exams – something he feels is being driven by Ofsted – but says this can be at the expense of a ‘wider stimulating education’.

“The reality is we have a system at Ofsted that virtually entirely measures schools on how good they are at exams.

“Schools are driven by the inspection system and that system still judges on an examination system. That is a flaw.”

Mr Lewis, who spoke out in August about the GCSE English exams marking row, disagrees with claims that the current exam system is ‘dumbed down’.

He said: “I think that is really unfair. I don’t think there has ever been a proper recognition that schools are significantly better than they were 15 or 20 years ago.

“The current generation of children at school are expected to work harder than previous generations in many areas.

“School systems and mechanisms are there to drive children pretty hard and again by definition their success rates are going to be higher.”

What’s your view@ Email the gazette@jpress.co.uk