Have the GCSEs become ‘pointless’?
Robert Halfon, the chairman of the Education Select Committee, certainly thinks so. In his new report he calls for an end to the traditional GCSE and A-Level examinations in favour of a mixture of academic and vocational subjects.
The Department of Education on the other hand refers to the recently reformed GCSEs as ‘gold standard’ exams.
So, who is right?
A great many people believe that our current GCSE system is outdated. It was designed at a time when the majority of students left education at 16. However, that isn’t the case any more. 47% of students staying on to do A-Levels and others undertaking a number of training courses post 16.
The argument to run a mixture of traditional and vocational courses alongside one another does have merit. The idea has long been touted as the future of education. However, this will only work if both groups are given equal standing, funding and recognition that can lead to strong career paths for all.
Mr Halfon goes on to suggest that he “would rather that all the concentration should be on the final exam before you leave.” An idea that was implemented with the scrapping of the AS-Levels. But again, this raises many questions: Does putting everything on to a final exam benefit all students, on all courses? Students applying for university would have no results of any public exams. So what happens if they don’t get the grades? And what would happen to students who don’t want to continue on to A-Levels at all?
Andrew Halls, Head Teacher at King’s College School believes that it’s the wrong way forward. He points out that our record for vocational training in this country is poor. He argues that to run the courses in parallel it would need a great deal of investment and funding for vocational subjects. Something that currently isn’t available. He echoes a great many people’s thoughts: “They really need to stop fiddling and changing – and make things work.”