News | Published February 11 2019

St Michael's Catholic High headteacher responds as Halfon labels GCSEs "pointless"

The Chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon has labelled the current GCSE system as “pointless” as part of a call to overhaul the format.

Halfon said that the existing system does not offer students a sufficiently broad education, with a limited focus on vocational skills and an overemphasis on exams.

After calling for GCSEs to be scrapped, he then said that A-levels should be replaced with a new mixed system for 18-year-old students.

The MP unveiled his ideas at an event hosted by education charity Edge.

He explained: “All young people should have access to the technical and creative subjects that will give them the skills that employers are looking for.

"These are not soft skills developed at the expense of knowledge, but the essential skills that will enable young people to interpret, manipulate and communicate that knowledge.”

In response to Halfon’s remarks a spokesperson for the Department for Education highlighted the introduction of the new T-levels, which look to address the weaknesses that Halfon highlighted.

“We are also taking forward reforms from the Independent Panel on Technical Education to give students a clear choice between an academic or technical path at aged 16. T-levels, alongside apprenticeships, will form the basis of our high-quality technical education offer.”

Edward Conway, the headteacher of St Michael's Catholic High School responded to Halfon’s comments, explaining: “I do not believe that it would serve any purpose to disband GCSE exams at the moment as there has already been significant changes made both to the content of GCSE’s and the way they are assessed.

“There has also been significant investment at a time of shrinking budgets to resource the new courses. The issue of the future of GCSE exams should remain under review with a national debate being undertaken.

“However, I do believe that there should be a significant increase in meaningful and accessible vocational GCSE courses to meet the needs of all students. Such an increase in vocational GCSE’s would be hugely beneficial to all students and allow for a more, broad and balanced curriculum offer meeting the needs of every student.

“The current offer is too restrictive and narrow. A broader vocational offer would also enhance student opportunities in following vocational courses post 16.”

Authored by

William Winter
February 11 2019

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