Where will Gove take the new GCSEs?

February 7, 2013
Category: Blog

So, today Gove took a step back from his reform of GCSEs and shelved the ECBs that were announced in September 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/feb/07/gove-gcse-reforms-from-2015 . Everyone seems to be in agreement of one thing; that GCSEs are failing British youth and leaving a generation losing out to global competition, but no one seems to be able to agree as to how we can improve the system. Gove was criticised for trying to introduce a system that would neglect those within the education system that are less academic. The necessity for an all-round assessment is vital, but it seems that the Government is missing some crucial factors when considering their reforms.

GCSEs are to set up students for life, whether they be going on to further education, wanting to get an apprenticeship or going straight into employment. However, it seems that they do not necessarily provide the all-round skills that would be required by, for example, a first time employer. Modular exams that can be sat repeatedly do not reflect the capabilities needed and expected of someone in the work place. An employer needs to know that their employee has been educated and tested to produce good quality work within a timeframe, they do not expect, nor have the patience, for an employee that fails to do tasks to a certain standard within required deadlines.  Consistent, modular resits are therefore not reflective of the real world, nor are exams and course work that are just reliant on the written word. Whilst Gove recognises the failure in repeated re-sits and is keen to push for a return for final exams to occur at the end of the second year of the GCSE course, he neglects to consider other forms of assessment that would provide a more all-round evaluation of a student’s progress.

It seems odd that no one considers a verbal assessment to be part the British education system. Within Europe it is common to have a verbal exam as part of the assessment of a student’s progress. This not only allows for a more comprehensive examining process and provides those less able to express themselves on paper with an opportunity to present their oral skills, but also provides a chance for every single person to gain practice in interview technique that will undoubtedly be used throughout life.

So whilst the Government continues to question how to regenerate a failing exam system with debates over examining bodies and curriculum criteria, should it not also consider other options of assessment aside from the traditional written word? Today’s announcement showed that Gove is prepared to listen to the British education bodies and won’t force through any radical change without due consideration, we look forward to seeing his progress.


  • oral exams could be good – but expensive in all subjects. Terrible thought oral maths! Main problem how to make course work cheat proof.

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