With the recent controversy over GCSE grading and Government’s bold announcement of its intention to replace GCSEs in England, it would be easy to assume that the proposals are all wrapped up, when in fact, they still only at the consultation stage.
Through its proposals the Government plans to restore what is describes as, “rigour and confidence to our examination system”, with the introduction of English Baccalaureate Certificates in English, maths, sciences, history, geography and languages. It’s seeking the views of schools, colleges, universities, employers, curriculum and assessment experts, and the general public on how qualifications can support all young people to have high aspirations, and the, “best possible opportunities” to progress to further and higher education and into employment.
The proposals have provoked strong reactions on all sides, ranging from those who think the changes would take us back to a ‘bygone age’ and are driven solely by ideology, to those who think the changes do not go far enough. Most recently, there has been criticism that non-EBacc subjects are being squeezed in the curriculum, and even more strongly worded opposition from the leader of one teaching union who has labelled the plans a “disaster”.
There are also those who have questioned the whole idea of an exam at age 16, believing a better balance of skills and knowledge is needed. Among them the CBI, who has commented:
“Though an examination system should engage and stretch young people, there is a wider debate to be had, beyond the nature and function of exams at 16, focused on the outcomes society expects of our education system to deliver between the ages of 14 and 18.”
With EBacc subjects poised to become the critical core of a future National Curriculum for young people in England, the Government has published its latest research paper on the impact of the EBacc on schools and pupil choice.
Over 600 schools responded to the survey, carried out by IPSOS Mori on behalf of DfE.
The researchers found that adoption of EBacc subjects seems to have reached “steady state”, with 46% of 2011 Year 9 pupils and 49% this year due to take the EBacc combination of GCSE subjects in the forthcoming summer exam series. This contrasts with 22% in the 2010 summer exams. Equally as dramatic, many schools (87% up from 48%) feel they’ve made most of the changes needed to accommodate EBacc subjects.
The report also shows that while the EBacc has inevitably had some impact on curriculum offers and pupil choice, the traditional virtues of choosing a subject you’re good at and which can help you along your preferred career path, remain strong:
“While most recognised that the EBacc subjects were in general the most useful subjects for some pupils, pupils and parents/carers firmly believed that choices had to be down to the individual’s preferences and abilities.”
Though there have been big surges in student numbers taking science, history and geography, it seems some subjects have faired less well, having to make way for EBacc subjects. The dropping in some schools of creative, technical and vocational options continues to raise real concerns for many about the nature of the curriculum offer for some pupils.
The Government is set to shake up the A-level system as it moves to introduce the principles of the International Baccalaureate (IB) to schools in England.
Students will be expected to write dissertations and to show a breadth of knowledge. Anyone studying arts subjects, such as English and history, would be expected to choose a “contrasting” subject in the sciences or maths. Those studying the sciences would be expected to take a “contrasting” arts subject.
The changes are designed to answer universities’ complaints that too many students have a narrow outlook and often lack basic literacy skills. In these reforms Government hopes to drive up standards by developing an overall framework some are dubbing the ‘Abacc’.
Students would still sit A-levels, but there would be major changes: modules would eventually be scrapped and students would be stretched by being asked to write dissertations of up to 5,000 words. The learning mix may also involve voluntary work.
The Department for Education has stressed that the plans are at an early stage.
The Department for Education has launched a consultation on the use of industry experts working in schools.
The consultation proposes changes to the Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012, which sets out the conditions to be satisfied by those without qualified teacher status who want to teach in England.
The changes would give Head teachers greater freedom to appoint industry experts, who are not qualified teachers, to work as instructors teaching and supporting the teaching of appropriate vocational courses.
The closing date for responses is Friday 18th May 2012.
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