Planned changes to secondary-school exams (EBacc etc): teachers say there should be more consultation; what do you think?

(220 Posts)
LittleTownofBethleHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Dec-12 14:51:43

Hello.

We've been contacted by The National Union of Teachers (NUT), who'd be really interested to hear your views on the planned changes to secondary-school exams.

The NUT, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Musicians' Union have joined forces to say that, although they're not opposed to reform of the exam system, they think the Government's recent consultation on the new EBacc was too limited and that any decision to move ahead is being made in haste.

They say: "We believe on an issue of such importance to young people's future the conversation cannot be over. Accordingly we are asking for a further consultation with a wider remit and brief, involving parents and students, as well as the profession and employers."

They've also set up a microsite to petition Michael Gove to re-open and extend his review of secondary-school exams.

Please do feel free to post your thoughts here.

Welovecouscous Fri 14-Dec-12 15:58:07

I would like a 5 year cross party moratorium for any more fiddling with the exam system as it is so disruptive for students and teachers

Not a teacher just a parent. .

chloe74 Fri 14-Dec-12 16:35:30

The GCSE is dead, its not fair on children or teachers to drag this out any longer, lets get on with the EBacc.

More consultation means what, more compromise trying to please more people and ending up with a system that will be so diluted it will be as bad as the GCSE. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

LilyBolero Fri 14-Dec-12 16:50:16

I have a child who would be in the 1st cohort of children doing the new exams. I am very worried that he will not know until he goes into Y10 exactly what exams he will be taking; whether it will be E-Bacc, or whether it will be GCSE, and it seems very unfair, as they are very different in concept - if he is going to be taking a 100% exam based qualification, then he needs to be getting used to that from Y7 onwards, whereas nobody knows what he will be doing. Likewise, if it is to be the more coursework based GCSE, he needs to be doing more of that.

It is a disgrace that music, RE and art are not deemed to be worthy or rigorous subjects by Gove, and he should definitely think again about that.

Finally, Gove should stop deriding the schools - whenever he comes out with a diatribe about pupils 'not learning tables' or 'not doing Shakespeare' or 'not learning poetry' or 'not having rigorous teaching', I think he should go into my children's school, which is a state school, in a mixed area, that does all of these things, and more. It is very dis-spiriting for teachers to have their efforts constantly run down by someone who has an ideological agenda, and isn't actually interested in what is happening on the ground.

Phineyj Fri 14-Dec-12 17:06:13

I'm a teacher. My (selective) school switched to i-GCSE in most of the proposed EBacc subjects some time ago. I think the Govt should stop pretending that it's possible to have one qualification that meets the needs of all 16 year olds. They should also think hard about reforming the exam system at the same time as the proposals to raise the school leaving age to 18 -- why not follow other countries and make the main exam at 18? I also disapprove of the way the E-Bacc omits the creative subjects -- something in which the UK has a comparative advantage. However, I think it's time to take RS out of the compulsory curriculum, given what the latest Census shows about declining levels of religious belief (it could still be offered as an option & would presumably feature in PHSE).

However, I think if they're going to change the exams, they should go ahead and change them and not get bogged down in years of uncertainty and 'consultation'. I took the second year of GCSE back in the 80s and then the second year of AS levels -- I don't remember the teachers or students making a huge fuss, and we all knew the GCSE was the replacement for O level and the AS level for AO level.

TimeChild Fri 14-Dec-12 17:18:46

Agree with Phineyj that it is not the way to exclude art and music from EBacc. UK is a world leader in the creative industries, perhaps thanks to the way the current system has nurtured students with talent for these. Besides, art as it is taught at GCSE is intellectual, looking at conceptual ideas, art history as well as technique.

I went through the O level system and was not allowed to take the creative subjects as I was thought to be too academic for them. This is something I regret to this day.

purits Fri 14-Dec-12 17:20:07

I would like a 5 year cross party moratorium for any more fiddling with the exam system.

Why?
My job changes every year when the Government brings out new legislation. It's a pain but you accept it as normal. Sometimes there is tinkering round the edges, sometimes there are major reforms - either way, you cope because you have to.
Teachers seem to resist change; they should accept that it is a factor in working life in the 21st century. They need to embrace Change Management, like the rest of us do, and be teaching it to the next generation.

Welovecouscous Fri 14-Dec-12 17:20:26

I was in the first few years of gcse and remember the teachers not being very sure what we were supposed to be doing sad

TimeChild Fri 14-Dec-12 17:21:56

... and fully support the NUT view that there should be more consultation.

Welovecouscous Fri 14-Dec-12 17:22:11

Purits because it:

Costs money
Wastes teachers' time getting to grips with new content and marking systems
Implicitly undermines the previous qualifications
Is unsettling for pupils and teachers

ravenAK Fri 14-Dec-12 17:30:11

We really should let the recent changes 'bed in', & then consult with people who actually know about education as to what needs changing. It's fair to say that Gove can't claim to be one of them.

The main problem with GCSE was always coursework. Controlled Assessment has sorted that problem.

The exclusion of creative subjects from the Ebacc is a scandal.

There's only one reason not to actually take the time to get this right - & that's Michael Gove's plotting his leadership coup.

(Just chuck him & BoJo into a vat of shit & see which of them drowns the other...the Tories will presumably be quite happy with the survivor)

cricketballs Fri 14-Dec-12 18:00:52

Phineyj stated that there was no problem when she tool GCSEs in the 2nd year of conception - she should have taken them in the 1st year as I did.....specifications didn't come through until year 11 for some courses to the extent that we undertook the O level spec learning in computer studies and when the GCSE spec finally came through we had spent a year learning about things that were not on the spec and all our grades were increased as a result.

As a teacher I have major concerns on the following areas...

1) how does this qualification serve the entire student population? Through the dispiriting comments and discussions regarding vocational qualifications these no longer seem to be worthy and therefore those students who can not access these academic courses are going to be ignored and left without a qualification. These are the students who we should be looking to ensure that they can access education and therefore raise their expectations and push into worthwhile careers.

2) the subjects that have been included (and excluded) - times have changed and there needs to be a fully rounded eduction on offer which includes arts, technology, 21st century subjects rather than just relying on the traditional.

3) the speed in which these changes are happening - we are having to teach to a new spec/assessment basis for the current year 10s and these changes have not yet been evaluated but we are expected to change again.

4) not all children learn in the same way - this method of final exam only does not suit all students so those who 'freeze' in an exam, those who work best through completing research rather than a memory test are going to be disadvantaged - exams are not how the working world works

lljkk Fri 14-Dec-12 18:13:01

It seems like the new EB is being rushed in, and the rush itself will cause havoc.

It's very fashionable to proclaim that education standards & results are falling. Which is supposed to be the impetus behind the "new" English Baccaulaurate.

I'm not saying results aren't falling, but truth is I don't KNOW if they are. Just because there's a perception that they're in decline doesn't make it remotely true. I'd like to see objective evidence using a variety of indicators.

And then I'd like to see evidence that the proposed new EB was the right way to redress the deficiencies.

I know that evidence is used to set policy with regards to reducing carbon emissions, or deciding which medical treatments are cost effective. Please link to the evidence that the new EB is the right way to raise education standards.

And then I'll have a clue what I think.

ravenAK Fri 14-Dec-12 18:21:12

That too, lljkk.

Give me an actual draft spec for my subject & I may well find myself looking at it & thinking: 'well, that's actually do-able...'. & as a Dept. we can start divvying up the work required to get new Schemes of Learning & resources in place.

'We're gonna throw everything out & replace it with something brilliant, honestly, it'll be rigorous & awesome, promise, but it currently only exists on the back of an envelope somewhere in the Goviot's study'...it doesn't fill me with confidence, tbh.

Solopower1 Fri 14-Dec-12 18:23:41

I would like a system in which each year had end of year exams (tests/coursework as deemed appropriate) set by each school.
At the end of your school career you'd get a School Leaving Certificate, which had your six end of year results on it, (plus maybe a character reference from a teacher, and possibly a short statement of your out of school activities etc), but otherwise just certified that you had attended high school for six years.

Now here's what I'd really like to see: Universities, colleges and big companies would set their own entrance exams - as they do in some other countries. It would be so much simpler! You'd apply to a uni, take their exam (or jump through whatever hoops they put in front of you). No UCAS, no clearing, no first choice, second choice, no statements ... No more league tables !!! Bliss.

So there would be no way of comparing the academic standards of two young people who went to different schools - because actually, we don't need to do that. All businesses and unis need to know is whether a prospective candidate is up to doing what the uni/company wants them to do. Smaller companies could also set some test or other - and these could be standardised within sectors.

The system we have now perpetuates social inequality, and I think the one I have described above would be much fairer (without penalising high-fliers in any way) and give a 6-year perspective on a child's work, not just a snap shot at ages 16/18.

Solopower1 Fri 14-Dec-12 18:24:59

Sorry - I know we're supposing to be discussing the government's proposals, but couldn't resist airing my plan to change the world.

As you were.

louloutheshamed Fri 14-Dec-12 18:25:35

Raven I strongly disagree that controlled assessment has sorted the problem
of coursework! Controlled assessments are ime a horrible halfway house between Cw and exam, and are vulnerable to abuse and cheating. They remove the opportunity to use afl techniques and for students to reflect upon feedback and improve their work. I think for some courses 100% is the only fair method of assessment.

ravenAK Fri 14-Dec-12 18:32:28

They work for us loulou - we teach the analytical skills they need, teach the content as you would for an exam, & let them loose.

They get no shortage of afl in the lead-up; we do no end of practice mini-CAs, in class & for H/W, so the only difference in the actual CA is the exam conditions, really, & the length of piece expected.

We also give them detailed feedback on each CA, both summative & formative, which obviously informs their next CA.

I suppose it depends to an extent on the subject - good for Eng/Lit, not so great for Classics, in my teaching experience... - so yes there may well be courses in which 100% terminal assessment is better.

Just not all of them, & definitely not mine!

EvilTwins Fri 14-Dec-12 19:13:35

I teach Performing Arts, and am outraged that Gove thinks neither Drama nor Music are worthy of a spot in his new curriculum.

I agree with Cricket and Raven. IMO, the pace of change is ridiculous - we need to be able to deal with current changes and evaluate whether or not they are effective before throwing it all out and changing again.

We are in danger of creating a generation of kids who will leave school with qualifications that employers are baffled by - how does that help?

titchy Fri 14-Dec-12 20:22:34

I'm not convinced you need the EBC at all. I think most employers and colleges are perfectly capable of reading an application form and working out whether the applicant has the required number of GCSEs or not!

I actually quite like GCSEs. There is no deciding in year 9 which level a child should study at like there was with O levels and CSEs - that decision (which in reality is what higher and foundation equates to) can be left till the day of the exam I believe.

The only reason EBC and EBac have been conjured up is to stop schools making kids do 'equivalent' quals. it's merely been introduced to enable schools to be quantitatively compared to each other ,not because its particularly meaningful as a qualification/group of qualifications.

Remove the alternative quals and the problem of dumbing down is removed . Except of course that's not how the free market in exams works....

I'd also like GCSES to be marked the way O levels were bit I guess that's a bit too controversial even for Gove!

EvilTwins Fri 14-Dec-12 20:27:58

Titchy, whilst I agree with a lot of what you say, I do despise the view that "equivalents" = dumbing down. I teach BTEC and GCSE performing arts. I teach both the old and the new BTEC spec- the new is supposed to be more rigorous than the old. The thing is, the old BTEC involves at least 4x as much work as the GCSE I teach. Also, everything the kids do counts- much more like real life.

KelleStarOfWonder Fri 14-Dec-12 20:45:23

like cricketballs and phiney say, I just can't see it being the one qualification that works for all. It is great for those of an academic mindset, it's challenging enough and provides a good grounding. But what about those that are less academic, or are more into the creative arts? They seem to loose out entirely.

I feel that the eBacc is about making students more academically prepared for University, but we've got to remember that University isn't for all.

I think there should be a range of qualifications available to students, that covers all students and their future choices.

like lljkk says it feels rushed. They've known for a long time that GCSE's need to be replaced/revamped, it seemed that they were pouring their efforts into the Diploma's [which seem to have slipped by the way as such] but have since tried to put their efforts into the eBacc now. It just seems like they are trying too hard to make the shoe fit on the ugly sisters.

I am looking at this from my previous job as a University Admissions Officer.

SuffolkNWhat Fri 14-Dec-12 21:08:06

I'm with EvilTwins and am an RE teacher.

My subject is already under attack and not given enough credence without it's removal from Humanities status within the EBacc. RE is not religious instruction but learning about other religions and their impact on our country and the history of the world. Sidelining it into PSHE does it a great disservice.

chloe74 Fri 14-Dec-12 21:23:11

I agree with purits that schools need to get used to change and similarly don't understand why teachers are so immutable. Consultation is NUT code for shouting down this reform and setting it up to fail. Blair acknowledged he should have gone 'faster and further' on school reform and this government should not end with the same regret.

Its very obvious that a lot of posts here are politically motivated and left wing bias. Please stop, we need to reform the system to get a better education for our children. The answer is simple, let all schools teach what they want and we will see what parents really think is important and what is best for future employment.

As Phineyj suggests one exam for all abilities is ridiculous, the government do actually know this but until we get politics out of education we will never get a system where different abilities are stretched appropriately. And that cant happen until parents accept that not all children can win first prize.

Get on with reform and stop this nonsense talking shop aka consultation.

SuffolkNWhat Fri 14-Dec-12 21:52:31

Reform absolutely, I agree it's needed but it has to be done properly and not at the expense of arts and other subjects through exclusion.

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