Lincoln MP Karl McCartney defends radical overhaul of GCSEs
Conservative MP for Lincoln Karl McCartney has defended radical reforms to the secondary school examination system.
Education secretary Michael Gove has revealed GCSEs will be axed and replaced with the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc).
Mr Gove said the change would deliver more rigorous testing at 16 by scrapping re-sits and cutting back on coursework in favour of end-of-year exams.
From autumn 2015, pupils will be taught the new EBacc in English, maths and science with the first exams in 2017.
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And from 2016, pupils will also be taught the new EBacc in history, geography and languages. Concerns being raised include claims the EBacc will leave less academically gifted pupils "on the scrap heap".
But Mr McCartney said the reforms will provide a more "solid grounding" for pupils.
He said: "We have seen pass rates in GCSEs increase exponentially, however the current system does not prepare school leavers adequately for either university or college life, nor the world of work.
"The new EBacc will focus on traditional subjects which will provide a solid grounding.
"I also feel that other subjects could benefit from such a thorough process and I support the Government's decision to ask Ofqual to investigate whether these new higher standards could be applied to a new set of qualifications to replace the entire suite of GCSEs."
However, head teachers and officials across Lincolnshire have raised concerns.
Branston Community Academy's principal Peter Beighton said: "Surveys show that most parents of young people in secondary schools are happy with the quality of education their children are receiving. So the need for major reforms is, at the very least, debatable.
"In contrast to some of the views I have read, my experience is that young people collectively are more engaged with education than ever.
"The proposed changes could make it more difficult for many of our students to remain motivated by, and connected to, the public examination system."
Labour's prospective MP for Lincoln Lucy Rigby warned the proposed reforms were outdated.
She said: "Our exam system has to prepare young people for the modern economy and exams need to be rigorous – I'd welcome any changes to the current system that do this.
"However, the scrapping of GCSEs is more 1980s than 21st century – even former Conservative education secretary Ken Baker has said as much."
Meanwhile, Patricia Bradwell, the executive councillor for children's services at Lincolnshire County Council, said the EBacc still had time to be properly developed before it is introduced.
"I hope to see rigorous examinations which are fit for purpose," she said. "It is vital all abilities and capabilities are assessed and that these help young people demonstrate their skills and knowledge.