THE head teachers of two high-performing Church of England
secondary schools have strongly criticised reforms to the 16-plus
GCSE examination announced last week by the Secretary of State for
Education, Michael Gove (above).
Under the new rules, due to come into force in 2016, pupils'
GCSE grades in the core curriculum subjects would depend on their
performance in three-hour-long exam-inations at the end of their
course. Marks given for coursework would no longer be taken into
account. The current grading system would also be extended, to
allow for more discrimination between top grades.
Andrew Wilcock, chairman of the Association of Anglican
Secondary School Heads (AASSH), which represents about 200 C of E
comprehensives and academies, said that the new rules were unfair.
"By having everything resting on a final exam, candidates who find
these difficult are put at a disadvantage."
Mr Wilcock, who is head of Bishop Ramsey School, Ruislip,
recognised by OFSTED as an outstanding teaching school, also
challenged the view that more top grades had been awarded in recent
years because exams were getting easier. "Standards of teaching
have risen, and we should expect exam results to reflect this."
Nick Taunt, a former AASSH chairman and head of Bishop Luffa C
of E Teaching School, Chichester - one of the most successful
comprehensives in the country - was also critical of the proposals.
"Educationally, there is little credible evidence that simple
terminal exams will broaden what children are taught, or make their
learning more inspiring."
Successive governments had hijacked the exams system to serve as
a measure of school success, he said. "This twin role forces
schools into making children take subjects that may not be
suitable, but are good for league tables, and narrows what is
taught into what can be tested. Mr Gove's proposals will do nothing
to alleviate this problem, and are likely to exacerbate it."
The proposed changes, however, were welcomed by the Revd Richard
Peers, the head of Trinity School, Lewisham, a voluntary aided
comprehensive in south London. The majority of his 600 pupils are
from Caribbean or African backgrounds, and almost 30 per cent of
them qualify for the Government's pupil premium to help schools
But since a new "grammar-style" regime was put in place four
years ago, the percentage of pupils gaining five or more GCSEs at
Grades A-C with English and Maths had risen from 27 per cent to 69
Mr Peers said this week: "The new exams will increase
opportunities for extended writing, and enable children to show
their possession of core knowledge. That is good for social
cohesion. A single point of assessment at the end of the key stage
will help children focus their learning."
The introduction of the new rules will create further problems
for religious education, which is currently outside the core
curriculum, and will continue to be examined under the current
system. The Church of England's chief education officer, the Revd
Jan Ainsworth, said: "Our concern is that the reforms will be an
opportunity to look hard at RE, and devise a curriculum and
examination that helps young people develop a high level of