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Scrap GCSEs?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Shedman, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter


    GCSEs should be scrapped and replaced by a qualification that recognises academic and technical skills alongside personal development, the chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee has said.

    Robert Halfon MP said that he believed young people needed to develop technical skills alongside subject knowledge in order to thrive in an increasingly automated and digital age. And, to achieve this, he proposed replacing GCSEs with a Baccalaureate qualification at age 18 that would recognise both the academic and vocational sides of education.

    Deja Vu all over again?

    phlogiston and TCSC47 like this.
  2. gainly

    gainly Established commenter

    phlogiston, agathamorse and TCSC47 like this.
  3. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    What I have read about it has some merit, but as gainly says nothing will be done. The intended upside would appear to be a more relevant education that hopefully students will be able to relate to and find they want to commit to.

    The downside of course is the tremendous (yet more of) upheaval of education for teachers and the world of work trying to use qualifications to asses the suitability of future employees.

    I remember the very first lecture on my PGCE many many years ago telling us that the things that the world of work wanted us to impart to students were things that it was almost impossible for schools to teach. Common sense, a decent work ethic, politeness and consideration of others and such. Instead, these things could only really be learnt by having a partner who would make it clear when they were lazing about, rent or a mortgage to pay and the world in general to deal with.

    An example that may have a little bit of relevance to a discussion like this is my father's advice to me when I had to choose between woodwork and metal work for my GCEs back in the 60's. Woodworking is a skill that you can use in your own life outside your work. If you need metalwork for your career, your employer will teach it to you. And that is precisely what happened. I don't think employers put much weight on vocational subjects at school. They are much more interested in what the qualifications gained tell them about a student.

    I come back to my first point, that students should find the curriculum engaging rather than anything that future employers may want.
    phlogiston, agathamorse and Shedman like this.
  4. adam_nichol

    adam_nichol Occasional commenter

    If you need metalwork for your career, your employer will teach it to you

    Would be nice. But it seems this developmental ethos was replaced by job adverts that simply say x amount of experience required; and an attempt thru apprenticeships and T-levels to manufacture some of this experience thru schools.

    Is time up for GCSEs? When you could leave at 16, they were something you could take with you. Now, they are merely signposts to what quals you do next; and I'm sure that journey is signposted enough already.

    The second strand to the report here - mixing vocational and academic - needs a culture shift for an education system designed and populated (by and large) only by people for whom the existing system worked; leaving a constant wake of 'rejects' for whom the system did not work and for whom no adult participation is ever likely.
    We even have the phrase - academic snobbery - who's name implies that academics are necessarily better than vocational...but that we shouldn't rub their faces in it.

    Much needs to change.
  5. moscowbore

    moscowbore Senior commenter

    Scrapping GCSEs could be one way of bringing English state education out of the current mire. Scrap all assessment and data nonsense and give teaching back to the teachers.
    Will absolutely never happen of course.
    Catgirl1964, agathamorse and Shedman like this.
  6. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    A wrong solution to a real problem.

    The report cites the narrowing of the curriculum /education al experience due to GCSEs.
    I would contend that such narrowing is due to leagues tables and OFSTED .
    I had a balanced and broad education via O levels . Apart from compulsory English, maths and French I had a choice , but which had to include at least one science, one humanities and one ‘creative’subject. This together with drama, sports, other extra curricular offerings allowed ( perhaps even ensured) a reasonably broad education.
    This provision was against a background which didn’t have artificial pass/fail for schools and individual teachers etc via league tables and the resultant devastating consequences which ensure further narrowing of the curriculum (between and within subjects) and stress on pupils and teachers.etc.

    Whilst I think, GCSEs need replacing/ altering, it will not solve a problem where there is a legislatively constructed hierarchy of subjects reinforced by penalties on the provision of ‘lesser’ ones.

    Any new system of assessment will be corrupted by the reduction of success to ‘league tables’ and the simplistic assessment methods of a punitive OFSTED regime which seeks out fault, blame and punishment rather than support and advice.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  7. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    I’ll believe there is a political will ( and a real recognition of the value of vocational education) only when the cabinet comprises as many plumbers, refuse collectors, shop workers as it does old etonians, oxbridge classicists etc.
    I could take such advocacy for such change of ethos more seriously if the politicians concerned were campaigning for a change in their own ranks/ cabinet/ Party leadership/ milieu.
    phlogiston likes this.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Heard it all before. HIS government hasn't even yet fully introduced the new GCSEs across all subjects.
    Since no change will occur, it's mid February and my brain aches, I'm afraid that there is no point in putting forward an argument that might (or might not) get a few likes from people who think the same way as me.
    This Government won't do anything. Even if another Government did do something, the independent schools would stick to iGCSEs and their "rigorous" A level alternatives that their teachers write and entry to the top universities and professions would be unchanged.
  9. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Occasional commenter

    There are two parts to what he has said
    1. We should scrap all qualifications at 16 and have a baccalaureate qualification at 18 instead. The obvious question would be to ask how the sections of this qualification would be assessed and we would almost certainly end up with external exams as a large part of this (by far the most reliable and fair way of assessing large numbers of students). I would be surprised if these exams became anything particularly different in structure to what we currently have but they may be taken at different ages for different students.

    2. Our curriculum is too narrow at 16 and at 18. There is some merit too this (particularly Post 16) but there is a question of how controlled the curriculum should be. At 14 students have a wide range of courses available to them with schools "encouraged" to make students take Ebacc subjects. Do we want to restrict choice further by insisting on a creative subject and a technology subject for all students?. For academic subjects, at 16, the choice has narrowed with the removal of AS as a part of the final A level qualification meaning most students now take three subjects for 2 years rather than 4 in Yr 12 with one being dropped at the end of the year. A relatively narrow curriculum at this point has advantages and disadvantages, reducing breadth of subjects studied but increasing the depth of study. Certainly, A levels are seen as a strong qualification by universities overseas due to the depth of study and I have seen students with lower results e.g. BCD get into medicine courses in European universities as even relatively lower grades at A level still showed a greater depth of understanding than the standard qualifications in that country.
    num3bers, agathamorse and TCSC47 like this.
  10. ajrowing

    ajrowing Occasional commenter

    Sounds like you want to move to the model followed by some schools in Singapore. Is Singapore still a model education system this week or has it gone out of fashion?
    Shedman likes this.
  11. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    I would be difficult for schools to provide skills and vocational education when funding cuts have seen practical subjects, such as DT, axed,
    Shedman, agathamorse and Catgirl1964 like this.
  12. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    most such qualifications, including the IB and the PGCE favour arty minds over scientific ones, and result in exactly what we currently have, shortages of high quality maths and science grads, because they often don't do particularly well at woffling about personal development, and such stuff, and don't do well, whereas those people who do do well at the woffle, and get through with high grades, are not necesserily particularly good at the science and maths , even if it is their subject, so in the end the lower quality science and maths candidates get higher grades than the high quality ones.

    this is of course a generalisation, but it has an over all affect
    num3bers likes this.
  13. mistermanager

    mistermanager New commenter

    Sad but very true. I teach a practical subject and have actually seen a considerable increase in uptake at GCSE and A Level over the past year, which is unusual in the current climate. However, other subjects such as DT and music are really suffering nationally. Too many students are shoe-horned into 'pathways' and courses that simply are not suitable for them. I strongly believe that every child should have the opportunity (and maybe it should be compulsory) to study some form of practical subject, for their own well-being if nothing else.
    agathamorse, Catgirl1964 and Shedman like this.
  14. roverlei

    roverlei New commenter

    I'm all for scrapping GCSEs. They're highly costly, highly stressful and now that we have a system which requires young people to be in some form of education until 18, they're irrelevant.

    The Victorian (Australia) model works better for me. No GCSEs. Complete 5 - 6 subjects to matriculation. You don't cover those subjects in the same detail as an A Level, but you leave with a much broader educational base for university study, or technical/further education.

    While we're at it, can we stop the UCAS crystal ball gazing system and actually wait until results are released BEFORE we go offering courses to people? It might also halt this ridiculous practice of unconditional offers, too. Predicting what a human being is going to cough up in an exam 12 months from now is the most ridiculous practice ever!
    agathamorse, ajrowing and Catgirl1964 like this.
  15. Catgirl1964

    Catgirl1964 Occasional commenter

    Most GCSEs are now too hard for many SEND students to access, even the foundation levels. They find it demoralising and depressing. I feel their pain too and we are setting them up to fail. Although my school already offers PSD and are now offering ASDAN and Btec Food Tech to the Yr 9s, they still have to do the compulsory subjects. It is unrealistic to enter many of them. I would love to see GCSEs in their current form discontinued and a return to something similar to the old GCEs and CSEs.
    agathamorse likes this.
  16. agathamorse

    agathamorse Occasional commenter

    I’m with roverlei on this. Now that they cannot leave education at 16, there is no real need for GCSEs anymore.
  17. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    However, pupils can move schools/leave school at 16 and go into other training and education and GCSE is used to inform this. What do we do if there isn't an exam at 16?

    I would prefer not to see exams for lots of reasons but it seems to me that they are at least some objective measure , otherwise you have HT's reference and recommendation and that is subject to all kinds of bias ( just thinking to when I was a kid , left to myb teachers I would have had a rough report. I got 10 O levels and that sealed the fate of my cr*ppy school teachers)

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