Commenting on today’s GCSE results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Congratulations to all pupils and teachers for the hard work they have put into passing this year’s GCSEs. The great results speak for themselves and have been achieved despite persistent criticism from the Education Secretary about the validity of GCSEs as a qualification, and the continual shifting of pass rate criteria.
“Schools and pupils are being put under ridiculous pressures to meet the latest demands from Ofsted and Government. As exam and test results are increasingly the only measure by which schools are judged it is no surprise some schools are entering pupils for different exams or entering them earlier. Everyone wants the best for pupils but the obsessive target driven culture imposed on schools is stifling learning and pupil engagement.
“If pupils and schools are working harder and harder to achieve grades A*-C they cannot be penalised for doing so by having fixed pass rates. This puts schools in the invidious position of never being able to achieve what is demanded of them. It also has the effect of putting in place a cap, ensuring that only a certain percentage of students will be awarded grades regardless of their actual achievement. This is entirely unfair and means that many students are denied the grades they deserve. Not only will they be greatly disappointed but their places at college and in sixth forms could well be threatened.
“We need to get away from the idea that education is for the few and look at how we can educate all students. Parents and pupils know only too well that GCSEs are not a walk in the park. While there is certainly good reason to look at ways to improve examination systems - particularly in the light of pupils staying on in education until 18 - Michael Gove’s approach to reform is unhelpful to say the least. Rushing through wholesale changes to GCSEs with little or no consultation, while ignoring professional advice about reforms, is foolhardy. If Singapore’s exam system is being rebuilt so that it can produce students who can think critically and collaborate together, so should ours. Swapping one exam and inventing another at a moment’s notice will not improve standards but just create chaos in the education system.
“With young people now staying on in education or training until they are 17 from this September, and until 18 from 2015, there are major issues that need to be tackled by Government such as ensuring that there is sufficient funding in place so that a suitable place in school, college training or on an apprenticeship place is guaranteed. At a time when Local Authority, school and further education college budgets are being heavily cut and at a time of high unemployment this will be an uphill struggle.”