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To think Margaret Thatcher was a "soothsayer" in questioning the academic rigour of introducing the GCSE exam in 1988.

(14 Posts)
smokepole Tue 30-Dec-14 16:55:27

In the light of the recently released cabinet documents from 1985, it is quite revealing that even 30 years ago there was doubt in one exam system for all. It is also quite telling that Keith Joseph education secretary (tory right winger) was the advocate of the GCSE system. It is also amazing that many in the education unions wanted to continue with O Levels and CSEs , this is the complete opposite way today.

I took GCSE exams in 1990. My school never took O Levels as it was a modern school in Kent ,so I suspect this must have been a cultural shock to them as well as the grammar schools.

I also think that the O Level exam system was created for the top 20-30% of ability pupils. The reality was it was created for a selective education system.

Nonetheless it is interesting to think that even before their introduction GCSE exams were creating debate about rigour and standards.

PenelopePitstops Tue 30-Dec-14 17:05:50

The one size fits all exam is an interesting concept. Teaching maths which has a foundation and higher paper I can see the difficulties in deciding which paper that pupils on the 'border' take. But having one single exam for all pupils would exclude the bottom 20% because they would be unable to access the paper.

People forget that O levels and CSEs did cater well for all students.

Tbh the whole education system needs an overhaul starting with qualifications in practical skills being on equal footing with gcses. Not all pupils are academic, nor should we expect them to be.

x2boys Tue 30-Dec-14 17:11:26

I GCSE,e in 1990 too and even then they had separate papers for different abilities my sister took hers in 1988 the first year of GCSE,s it was hard being the guineapigs I

RoastingYourChestnutsHurtsAlot Tue 30-Dec-14 17:13:15

I'm all for going back to the 3 tiered system - that they also have in Germany. Also.for bringing in more than one exam.format

GCSEs and comprehensive education was a massive experiment that failed imho

HomeHelpMeGawd Tue 30-Dec-14 17:15:32

Not really soothsayer. It's about the first question you'd ask any time a change is made to an educational assessment: will this introduce/exacerbate systemic bias (up or down)?

AuntieStella Tue 30-Dec-14 17:18:56

I think people do forget these days that GCSEs rolled out under Thatcher (who I think the unions fell obliged to disagree with).

And also that the exam had been tested and trialled for a number of years before roll out (under Labour too) and the tiered papers closely resembled the formal equivalency between CSE and O level anyhow.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 30-Dec-14 17:22:40

"It is also amazing that many in the education unions wanted to continue with O Levels and CSEs , this is the complete opposite way today."

And you know this how?

The unions and the teachers are against knee jerk changes with no research or testing done as to whether it improves the system or not.

AuntieStella Tue 30-Dec-14 17:24:46

The introduction of GCSEs was one of the very few changes that was properly trialled (spanning both Tory and labour governments) so there was no 'knee jerk' to oppose.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 30-Dec-14 17:29:47


Sorry I didn't make myself clear I was posting about the unions/teachers and the changes that are being made now.

SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius Tue 30-Dec-14 17:33:33

According to the Times today, despite her misgivings about GCSEs, Thatcher pushed them through simply to spite the teaching unions. So basically the educational future of Britain's children mattered less to her than keeping the unions down.

Thanks a bunch, Maggie!

smokepole Tue 30-Dec-14 17:33:46

Boney. The evidence for the dislike of the changes must be written in the archives from the time (circa 1980s) . I do believe though as Auntie Stella pointed out that the Unions had to disagree with the Thatcher Government.
Auntie Stella also points out that the GCSE system had been tested and trialled for a number of years before being rolled out. This is in contrast to the rushed out "dogma" of Gove .

Incidentally I got 4 D/1E Grades at GCSE the old CSE system would that have been Grade2/3 ?.

BaffledSomeMore Tue 30-Dec-14 17:40:49

SDTG. Wouldn't be the only time Thatcher did whatever it took to fight the unions for dogmatic reasons!

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 30-Dec-14 17:41:37

Smokepole "must be" or has been? And as pointed out by SDTG thatcher would ahve thought in exactly the same way.

"Incidentally I got 4 D/1E Grades at GCSE the old CSE system would that have been Grade2/3 ?."

That is unfortunately like comparing apples and oranges, the GCSE and CSE are significantly different depending upon when you took them and which of the many exam boards you where placed with.

From my memory of the GCSEs (1988) the first (full) years were complete fuck ups.

smokepole Tue 30-Dec-14 17:58:42

I agree Boney about the "fucked" up nature of the early years of GCSE . I do not think I was taught anything on the syllabus , the answers I gave for the exams were just guess work hence D and E grades. The lack of any specialist help or understanding of Dyspraxia/Dyslexia may have played a significant part in those grades I attained I think !......

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