CHANGES to the way pupils are examined at the end of their secondary school education have divided opinion among head- teachers.
The GCSE exams for 16-year-old children in England, which were introduced in the 1980s, are to be replaced by an English Baccalau-reate Certificate, with the first courses to begin in September 2015.
The new qualification will scrap the retaking of modules, reduce reliance on coursework and bring back tough end-of-year exams.
Dorcan Academy headteacher Scott Sissons said: “It is a big step backwards.
“GCSEs have seen students’ results go up over the past 20 years, that is partly because of pressure on schools through league tables but mainly because the quality of teaching in schools has improved.
“Students and parents are much more motivated and have higher aspirations.
“GCSEs work. I don’t see very much evidence at all, apart from comparisons to some unusual countries abroad, that show GCSEs aren’t appropriate.
“I am concerned about the type of qualifications that are being proposed because they are much more academic qualifications that will suit a small minority of children.
“My concern is the new exam will focus on recall of knowledge.
“Nowadays, if people need to know things they Google it. The skill of being able to remember lots of information is not one society needs in the same way it might have done 50 years ago.”
Children of all abilities will take the EBacc and there will be only one exam board for each subject, in order to prevent competition between boards to deliver tests which are easier to pass.
Wendy Conaghan, the headteacher of Kingsdown School , said: “The idea they are going to restrict the number of exam boards is good because there are always concerns of quality assurance.
“There are other bits about the new exams that worry me. My background is in mathematics. If there is going to be one three-hour exam that the children sit at the end of it there is going to be a problem.
“The A* candidates will sit there and have a go at every single bit but the other children will sit there and not be able to attempt 50 per cent of the exam.
“I can’t see how that is a positive experience for any student. I don’t see that having a one-tier system for all students will be a good idea.”
Churchfields Academy headteacher Steve Flavin said the challenge will be keeping current GCSE students motivated.
He said: “It is clear that the GCSE examination needs changing. The exam has served schools and students well since its introduction.
“However, what is clear is that for many reasons parents, employees and higher education institutions have lost confidence in the GCSE as a national measure of attainment.
“My view is that the GCSE is a good exam because it provides a level playing field for all students and is not an easy exam to pass.
“The challenge for schools and teachers is to continue to motivate the children who are currently taking the GCSE examination, which includes all secondary aged pupils from Year 8 onwards.”
Jane Cordes, the headteacher of St Lukes School, said: “As a special school headteacher for pupils with behaviour, emotional and social difficulties, the traditional curriculum or testing is not conducive to most of the cohort.
“I am concerned that SEN pupils will become the ‘lost children’ and I hope to continue to deliver our school ethos – ‘Arrive with a past, leave with a future’ – through a curriculum that best meets their needs.”