Should we scrap GCSEs? – Western Mail Article

29 Aug

Below is the article I wrote for the Western Mail in response to their education correspondent, Gareth Evans, arguing Wales should scrap GCSEs.

The Western Mail’s Education correspondent made a somewhat controversial statement recently when he argued that we should scrap GCSEs. The call came following this year’s results where the exams sat by pupils in Maths and Science were very different to those sat by pupils the previous year, as were the way in which they were marked. This change has made it impossible to make comparisons of year-on-year standards.

I have sympathy for the case being made by Gareth Evans. I am sure that many teachers would welcome, as he put it, a release of the pressure valve placed on them and their students as a result of these exams. Equally, there would be financial benefits to this proposal that could help address the continued underfunding of our schools.

It wouldn’t be an unconventional approach. Finland, often held up as a shining example of how an education systems should operate, do not set mandatory exams for pupils until 17-19 years old.

There would be trepidation about travelling this path at present. There are clearly concerns about changes to GCSEs making annual comparisons difficult. Pupils, parents, teachers , higher education institutions and employers all need to know that there is a standardisation to GCSEs and what you get does not need to be asterisked by a date.

The Welsh Government was right to support the retention of GCSEs. While assurances about the consistency pupils can expect need to be secured, especially in light of the dip in Science and Math pass rates caused by the 2013 changes, the respect that the GCSE qualification continues to have remains high. However, we should not refuse to look at how our qualifications may look further down the line and that includes questioning exactly how and why we test students at key stage 4.

The article has been published today but I can’t see a link online. I’ll try to post it when it is there.

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