The scrapping of GCSEs “is more about Michael Gove’s place in history than ‘rigorous’ standards of education”, according to Voice, the union for education professionals.
The Education Secretary announced to the Commons that GCSEs are to be replaced by a new English Baccalaureate Certificate in secondary schools in England.
The first EBacc courses in English, maths and sciences will begin in September 2015 and children will sit exams in these subjects in 2017.
However, teaching unions have said that children sitting GCSEs in the coming years will see their qualifications downgraded.
Ian Toone, Senior Professional Officer (Education) with Voice, said:
“No one has done more to undermine ‘confidence’ in GCSEs than Michael Gove himself.
“Such political interference has little to do with education and belittles the enormous efforts being made by students and their teachers to achieve ever more stringent standards.
"The GCSE has been enormously successful in enabling the vast majority of students to register achievements within the range of their capabilities.
“Rather than adopting the more cautious and sensible approach adopted in Wales, Michael Gove is rushing ahead with an ‘O-level mark 2’ when we should be having a national debate and consultation on the whole 14-19 system of education. We should be discussing whether, as compulsory education or training are extended to 17 and then 18, there is a need for exams at 16 at all.
“The Education Secretary should be looking at how to create parity between academic and vocational qualifications and asking himself if the system should be testing children’s knowledge and understanding or their ability to recite memorised facts and their skill at passing exams.”
Mr Toone added:
“Describing such a narrow range of subjects as a ‘Baccalaureate’ devalues both the important academic subjects that will be excluded – such as religious education, music, computer studies, art etc – and the more challenging and wider-ranging International Baccalaureate.
“It is difficult to envisage how the ‘EBacc’ certificates will be made accessible to 80% of 16-year-olds. Not all pupils of this age are scientists, mathematicians or linguists. A good general education needs to be broad, balanced and relevant, rather than narrow, restrictive and harking back to a golden age that didn’t actually exist.”
Mr Gove’s plans will be subject to a three-month consultation, while the Department for Education will also consult on a replacement for the system of school league tables.