10/Jul/2014 - Last News Update: 11:56

Nick Clegg blasts Michael Gove over scrap GCSE plan

Category: Politics

Published: 21st Jun 2012 18:13:30

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has reacted angrily to Michael Gove's plan to scrap GCSEs in England saying they would create a "two-tier system".

Mr Clegg said the education secretary's announcement was "self-evidently not policy that has been discussed or agreed within the coalition".

The Daily Mail said Mr Gove wants to bring back a system similar to the O-Levels, with CSEs for less able pupils.

He later told MPs the current system was letting children down.

But Mr Clegg, who is at an UN conference on sustainable development in Brazil, said: "I am not in favour of anything that would lead to a two-tier system where children at quite a young age are somehow cast on a scrap heap."

Asked if Mr Gove was wrong to do what he was doing, Mr Clegg said: "Mr Gove is entirely entitled to come up with proposals and then if he wants to we can discuss them within the government.

"It's really important we have an exam system that's fit for the future, and doesn't just hark back to the past. That it really pushes all children across the whole school system and doesn't just cater for a small number of children".

If the plan goes ahead, students would begin studying what the leaked document says will be "tougher" O-level style exams in English, maths and the sciences from September 2014. They would take their exams in 2016.

Less academic pupils would sit a different "more straightforward" exam, like the old CSE.

The ideas, if introduced, would amount to the biggest change to the exams system for a generation.

Following the angry reaction from Lib Dems, Downing Street stressed that the plans were "not there yet" and were going to be put out for consultation.

But a senior Liberal Democrat source said the plan would be a "huge upheaval for very modest gains".

This leak seems to have taken officials at the Department for Education by surprise.

The timing is certainly not good, with tens of thousands of teenagers in the final days of their GCSE and A-level exams catching headlines suggesting the government does not think their exams are tough enough.

If ministers decide to go ahead with the proposals and the time-scale given, they cannot afford to hang around. The design and approval of the new exams will take time and that will come after the consultation planned for the autumn.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, the devolved governments will need to decide whether to stay in step with the proposed changes. They could continue to let their schools choose GCSE qualifications from the exam boards, which are private companies.

The source continued: "The main problem we have with this is it looks like it sets far too low an aspiration for our young people.

"Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems do not want to return to the divisions we saw in the 1950s."

The source said the party would not accept a policy which would leave "a large number of children behind at a relatively young age".

Some in the party are said to feel today's newspaper report, the first they knew about the plan, was an attempt to bounce them into accepting the changes.

Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne - a Liberal Democrat - told the BBC's Daily Politics: "What will be the guiding principle over rank and file Lib Dems is to have a system where everybody is able to realise their potential, that you don't have glass ceilings put in at different layers."

But it is not just Liberal Democrats MPs, the junior partners in the coalition government with the Conservatives, who are unhappy with the proposals.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart, chair of the Education Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One he was "sceptical" about changing the system of secondary school qualifications in England.

He said the plan had "come out of the blue" and asked: "How will it help close the gap between rich and poor? How will it increase social mobility?"

Shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan: ''Michael Gove is in danger of completely ripping up a system that actually works''

For Labour, shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said Mr Gove's plan would take the exam system "back to the 1950s".

"GCSEs may well need improving, but a two-tier exam system which divides children into winners and losers at 14 is not the answer," he said.

Mr Gove was called to Parliament to answer questions from MPs about the leaked plans.

He said the current exams system needed to be improved: "Children are working harder than ever but we are hearing that the system is not working for them. We want to tackle the culture of competitive dumbing down."

He said rigour needed to be restored to the system if England was to keep pace with educational improvements in some other countries.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the move towards having a single exam board per subject, which he said was sensible and would "remove a lot of concerns about the system".

"But a move to a two-tier (exam) system does not sound a good step forward," he added, saying such a change would mean choices about children's futures being taken at too young an age.

As control of education in the UK is devolved, Mr Gove's plans are for England only. It would be up to Wales and Northern Ireland to decide whether to follow suit. In Scotland, pupils take Standard Grades, Highers and Advanced Highers rather than GCSEs and A-levels.

The Education Minister for Wales, Leighton Andrews, has said Wales will not return to O-level-style exams.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Nick Clegg blasts Michael Gove over scrap GCSE plan [Online] (Updated 21st Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1436153/Nick-Clegg-blasts-Michael-Gove-over-scrap-GCSE-plan [Accessed 10th Jul 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Synthetic cannabis 'not medicinal', EU top court says

    The EU's top court says designer drugs that mimic cannabis, which are already illegal in many countries, cannot be classed as medicinal.
  • Emergency phone and internet data retention law set to be passed

    An emergency law to ensure police and security services can continue to access people's phone and internet records is expected to be approved at a special cabinet meeting later.
  • Graham Dickinson to pay back £85,000 income tax scam

    A self-employed health and safety adviser who admitted failing to pay income tax totalling £85,000 has been given time to repay the cash.
  • John Wayne heirs sue Duke University over nickname

    John Wayne's heirs are taking North Carolina's Duke University to court over the right to use the actor's nickname to market a line of bourbon.
  • John Wayne heirs sue Duke University over nickname

    John Wayne's heirs are taking North Carolina's Duke University to court over the right to use the actor's nickname to market a line of bourbon.