Sheffield heads raise fears over new GCSE qualification

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HEADTEACHERS in Sheffield have raised concerns about a new examination regime to scrap GCSEs in a major overhaul of secondary school testing.

The reforms, revealed yesterday, will see GCSEs replaced with the English Baccalaureate Certificate, a single end-of-course exam rather than rolling assessments and one exam board for each subject.

The changes are designed to combat concerns about falling GCSE standards and come in the wake of this summer’s GCSE English results fiasco.

But city headteachers said questions remained about the plans and how they would work.

Teresa Roche, headteacher at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, said education should not be a ‘political football’.

“It is a big change to go to one exam and for teachers who have been taught and taught students on how to give their best on coursework.

“If we are going to move away from coursework will there be a reduction in examination entry fees?”

Jane Willis, headteacher at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Ranmoor, said the changes could be a good thing if they gave schools equality when it came to grade boundaries.

This summer’s GCSE exams saw a drop in English results after the threshold required to obtain a grade C was raised between January and June.

Mrs Willis said it was key not to ‘demoralise students who were less academically able.

“We’ve got a double edged message coming out from the Government, we’ve got a message about catering for all different abilities and all different types of child but what we’re doing now is changing to something which doesn’t necessarily make us do that.”

The reforms are now out to consultation and would see new exams first taken in 2017.

Diane McKinlay, head-teacher at Forge Valley Community School, Stannington, said: “There are so many changes in education you don’t have time to settle before the structures are changed again. There is never a period of stability.”

Bill Jones, the executive director of planning and performance at Sheffield College, said it was too early to know the impact of the changes.

He added: “Further education colleges are very good at offering a broad range of courses at different levels to match students’ ability.”