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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Teachers vote to keep GCSEs
Sean Coughlan
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online at the ATL conference in Blackpool

Teachers have complained of too much testing
Teachers have voted against the scrapping of GCSEs - although the school standards minister has signalled a shake-up in the exam system.

Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference in Blackpool have rejected calls for the replacement of the current system.

And although calling for a reduction in the exam burden for teenagers, the teachers voted against the introduction of a baccalaureate-style system.

Andy Speake, a teacher at the Purbeck School in Wareham, argued that there were too many exams for secondary school pupils - and the logical conclusion of reforms was to remove the GCSE in its present form.

'English bac'

Mr Speake told the conference that a pupil taking nine GCSEs, in their modular form, could take 85 exams between the ages of 14 and 19.

But this was opposed by delegates who argued that the GCSE remained an important qualification for many pupils - and that scrapping the exam would be "premature".

Andy Speake
Andy Speake argued unsuccessfully for an overhaul of GCSEs

Nonetheless, there were signs from the School Standards Minister David Miliband that the government is considering a fundamental reform of the exam system, which are likely to have an impact on the future of GCSEs.

In his speech to the conference on Tuesday, he spoke of the need to re-consider the number of high-stakes exams taken by 16, 17 and 18 year olds.

A working group led by the former chief inspector of schools, Mike Tomlinson, is currently examining the system.

This could "unlock the door" for significant changes, said the minister.

There have been suggestions that this will pave the way for an English baccalaureate system, which would see a broader-based qualification system to replace A-levels, which in turn would be likely to require changes to the structure of GCSEs.

Among other possible compromise options will be for GCSEs to remain, but for the assessment to be carried out within schools, rather than externally.

There have been other suggestions that GCSEs should be taken earlier or spread across a greater period of time, so as to reduce the impact on students.

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21 Jan 03  |  Education

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