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Old 11-02-2019, 02:52 PM   #1
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Default 'Pointless' GCSEs should be scrapped, says senior MP

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GCSEs should be scrapped and A-levels should be replaced by a mix of academic and vocational subjects, says Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee.

His radical rewriting of England's exam system is designed to give young people a much broader range of skills for their working lives.

The former Tory minister says GCSEs for 16-year-olds have become "pointless".

The Department for Education defended GCSEs as "gold standard" exams.

The exams taken by 16-year-olds have recently been reformed in England, with a new numerical grading system.

The government has given no suggestion that it would support removing GCSEs.

Broader range of subjects
But head teachers' leader Geoff Barton said the idea of ditching GCSEs had a "lot of merit", as they belonged to an era when young people left education at 16.

Lord Baker, who introduced the exams as education secretary in the 1980s, said "the days of GCSEs are numbered".

Mr Halfon, who presented his blueprint at an event in London run by the Edge vocational education charity, wants to end what he sees as an excessively narrow academic pathway in secondary schools.

Instead of taking academic subjects at GCSE and A-level, he wants young people to have a broader curriculum, with vocational training alongside traditional subjects.

The MP is proposing a baccalaureate system to replace A-levels, with a mix of arts, sciences and vocational subjects and exams at the age of 18.

"Get rid of GCSEs, which seem to me pointless. Instead there should be some kind of assessment to show how far you're progressing," he says.

"I would rather that all the concentration should be on the final exam before you leave."

Your views:
This is an outstanding idea. I have been a secondary teacher for 10 years, and the relentless chase for GCSE grades has ruined our profession. I see colleagues suffering more and more burn out over an archaic system that serves no purpose in the modern era. Johnny, Hastings.

Robert Halfon's education makeover ideas are fantastic. I diligently pursued an academic career costing my parents, the country and myself tens of thousands only to eventually discover my passion lay in the technical and bespoke social work of hairdressing! I wish I had more choices available. Scrap the ivory tower and make it real for our children! Claire

The problem is school is still very Victorian, someone stands at the front of the class and you have to sit and listen. There is no opportunity to explore how people learn or attempt made to pique someone's interest. I think the system is broken and there is far too much pressure on children nowadays to achieve academically when not everyone is that way. It's like the old adage a fish will think it's stupid if you ask it to climb a tree. Duncan.

We moved to France in order for them to have a better quality of life and that has happened. However, a by product has been the excellent education they have received. The Baccalaureate system is, in my opinion, far superior to the system in the UK. I am speaking as an ex-grammar school pupil. Paul, France

Mr Halfon says England has been trapped in a false division between academic and vocational study - and this is failing to prepare young people for technological changes in the workplace.

"The march of the robots" and the acceleration of artificial intelligence could remove a quarter of jobs, he says.

He says there should be a royal commission on how to prepare for the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics.

"I think it's going to be dramatic. It will change the way we teach, change the way we learn and have a massive impact on jobs and skills."

Skills shortages
The former education minister says young people are leaving school without the skills needed for work, at the same time as industry is complaining of skills shortages.

But scrapping GCSEs could raise questions for secondary schools without sixth forms - which under the proposed changes would no longer have the focus of any public exams.

It would also mean, since the removal of AS-levels, young people would apply to university without having the results of any public exams.

It would also raise questions about what would happen to young people who currently take GCSEs but do not stay to take exams at the age of 18.

"GCSEs are a product of a different era when many young people left education at the age of 16, but this is no longer the case, and young people are now expected to remain in full-time education or training until the age of 18," he said.

"It would therefore make a great deal of sense to replace GCSEs with some sort of light-touch assessment which would help determine post-16 routes rather than persisting with high-stakes GCSEs."

But Andrew Halls, head teacher of King's College School, an independent school in south-west London, said it was "absolutely the wrong idea".

"This country's record in vocational training is terrible, to muddle that up with an academic qualification is a complete disaster."

"A lot of money and thought needs to be put into vocational training," said the head teacher.

"They really need to stop fiddling and changing - and make things work," said Mr Halls.

Changing technology
Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said the plans reflected the "concerns not only of parents, teachers and pupils themselves, but employers and business leaders".

"Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and change happening so quickly, we are failing young people if we do not enable them to develop the adaptability and the critical skills they need," she said.

Lord Baker, who brought in GCSEs, said the exams were now "redundant".

But he said "they won't go quietly" and warned that the government would be opposed to such radical change.

There have been previous attempts to combine vocational and academic pathways - such as Sir Mike Tomlinson's review of exams and the diplomas introduced under the last Labour government.

Mr Halfon says he would expect a "massive backlash" against such a change to GCSEs and A-levels.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said vocational options had been improved, with apprenticeships and the new T-level technical qualifications.

The government spokesman defended the value of GCSEs as "the gold standard qualification at age 16 and a passport to further study and employability".

"They were recently reformed so that their demand matches that in other high performing countries and better prepare students for work and further study."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47149808
I agree with him, the whole GCSE system is archaic and only benefits targets rather than the students. I'm against examinations in general tbh, I don't think they truly measure the potential and knowledge of students since it's one day out of hundreds. Scrap exams, scrap targets and bring forth a grading system based on an overall body of work that provides a truer image of a student's aptitude.

I also think schools should do more to prepare students for adult life which they currently do not do at all. I never learned about taxes or entitlements or rights and that's wrong. Students should be taught these things and more, they should be better prepared for leaving school than they currently are and that's a failing of the system.
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:01 PM   #2
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I think this is the way to go tbh.

Out of my 11 GCSE's, I think I only really wanted to do 2 of them (Art and Welsh), the others I couldn't have cared less about but "had to do them". Honestly too, NONE OF THEM have been of any use to me in getting a job, I got into University based on my work not my grades (design course) and I now work for myself. All of that stress of "you need 6+ A-C grades, C's in English, Maths, Science" etc was totally unnecessary and stressful. I had to re-sit my Maths a few times before I got a C (I just can't do numbers) and now it's hardly required in most general jobs, most employers now would rather you be computer literate than have good "basics".

I would have loved the opportunity to do vocational training alongside some of my GCSE's, something like learning to be a Barber. Two years of that so many hours a week with the odd placement day would have been brilliant.
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:06 PM   #3
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Our equivalent to GCSEs over here is the Junior Cert and they've started to change that, my sons year will be the first to start seeing the changes in it, it's going on assessments over the whole of the junior cycle which is 3 years long. It makes so much more sense then to have the whole thing based on one exam in each subject at the end of the three years, it's too mush stress and pressure
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:08 PM   #4
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You could teach RE in an afternoon so that can go and all the rubbish languages and things like Maths - basic Arithmetic is all that one needs

Also reduce holidays to 6 weeks a year and 4 for teachers - getting rid of October and easter ridiculous holidays

ban all phones in class too


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Old 11-02-2019, 03:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by LeatherTrumpet View Post
You could teach RE in an afternoon so that can go and all the rubbish languages and things like Maths - basic Arithmetic is all that one needs

Also reduce holidays to 6 weeks a year and 4 for teachers - getting rid of October and easter ridiculous holidays

ban all phones in class too


Are they not already? They are in my kids schools
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:10 PM   #6
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Are they not already? They are in my kids schools
nope

its bloody ridiculous
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by LeatherTrumpet View Post
nope

its bloody ridiculous
Yeah it is
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:22 PM   #8
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Also reduce holidays to 6 weeks a year and 4 for teachers - getting rid of October and easter ridiculous holidays
... no
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by LeatherTrumpet View Post
Also reduce holidays to 6 weeks a year and 4 for teachers
If anything, teachers need more of a break.

Friends of mine who teach literally leave the house 7:30AM and "finish work" in the early hours of the next morning after they've finished marking/reviewing/organising/lesson planning/filing etc etc.

The admin involved in teaching nowadays, especially secondary school, is really unbelievable.
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Old 11-02-2019, 03:34 PM   #10
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If anything, teachers need more of a break.

Friends of mine who teach literally leave the house 7:30AM and "finish work" in the early hours of the next morning after they've finished marking/reviewing/organising/lesson planning/filing etc etc.

The admin involved in teaching nowadays, especially secondary school, is really unbelievable.
yes same as many jobs, I work 7 days a week as most people who run their own business and dont get paid for holiday, NHS staff, lawyers doctors ambulance staff, vets all work just as hard or a damn sight harder

so what is your point?
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Old 11-02-2019, 04:56 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Niamh. View Post
Our equivalent to GCSEs over here is the Junior Cert and they've started to change that, my sons year will be the first to start seeing the changes in it, it's going on assessments over the whole of the junior cycle which is 3 years long. It makes so much more sense then to have the whole thing based on one exam in each subject at the end of the three years, it's too mush stress and pressure
This is how it used to be here until 2 years ago when they changed it to one end of year exam, thankfully my two missed the change
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Old 11-02-2019, 05:03 PM   #12
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This is how it used to be here until 2 years ago when they changed it to one end of year exam, thankfully my two missed the change
That seems like a big backwards step
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Old 11-02-2019, 06:26 PM   #13
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"I would rather that all the concentration should be on the final exam before you leave."

Is a stupid idea though. Sometimes people get sick, some people arent good at exams (and thats why mixing in coursework is good)

Hmm not convinced.
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:54 AM   #14
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Feels like every ten years they frig around with the certificates, call them something else... what's the point? Choose one.
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:24 AM   #15
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I don't necessarily think GCSEs should be scrapped - while it's now compulsory to be in some kind of education until 18, this includes vocational apprenticeships. A "progress check" is all well and good for those going onto their school's sixth form, but those who wish to do apprenticeships need something to show they have met the grades.
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:15 PM   #16
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yes same as many jobs, I work 7 days a week as most people who run their own business and dont get paid for holiday, NHS staff, lawyers doctors ambulance staff, vets all work just as hard or a damn sight harder

so what is your point?
Teachers should get less holidays because LT, who works for himself, chooses to work 7 days a week?

What is your point?
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:38 PM   #17
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I don't necessarily think GCSEs should be scrapped - while it's now compulsory to be in some kind of education until 18, this includes vocational apprenticeships. A "progress check" is all well and good for those going onto their school's sixth form, but those who wish to do apprenticeships need something to show they have met the grades.
Surely a specifically targetted entrance exam for the apprenticeship itself would be more useful? To test specifically that the basics needed for that apprenticeship are present? e.g. there are a lot of vocational trades where things like mental arithmetic and geometry would be essentials, but anything beyond the most basic algebra would be useless, and likewise other things taught in GCSE level maths (standard deviations, quadratics, etc).

Would also allow for targetted development of those skills to then retry later.

[edit to add] Likewise, a simple grade can be misleading because someone could feasibly score a B in GCSE maths whilst getting every single geometry question on the exam 100% wrong. They could have a specific weakness in that area that's masked by strength on the other questions. But what if that's the only part of maths that's relevant to the apprenticeship they're seeking?
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:42 PM   #18
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Teachers should get less holidays because LT, who works for himself, chooses to work 7 days a week?


...
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:18 PM   #19
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