Criticism at proposed ‘return to O-levels’

Last Year: St Catherine's Catholic High School pupils celebrate in 2011
Last Year: St Catherine's Catholic High School pupils celebrate in 2011

Union chiefs have hit out at plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of a return to more rigorous O-levels in a radical overhaul of secondary education.

Education secretary Michael Gove is reportedly planning to revive exams similar to O-levels and bring in simpler exams - similar the old CSEs - for less able students.

The changes are proposed from 2014 - so students beginning GCSEs in 2013 would be the last year to do them.

Yesterday, Sue McMahon, the Calderdale secretary of the National Union of Teachers said Michael Gove was attempting to turn back the clock without any thought for the implications.

“He might be an orator, a journalist and a politician but he is not an educationalist and what he is proposing will not benefit our children.

“The CSE qualifications never used to be properly recognised by employers and those who sat the exam usually had to take O-levels as a follow up.

“Reintroducing them will brand every child as a failure.”

The plans, contained in a leaked document shown to the Daily Mail, also showed propsals to scrap the national curriculum at secondary level altogether - so that heads would decide what pupils should study.

At the moment, the new academy schools, which are state-funded but semi-independent, do not have to follow the national curriculum.

The O-levels would cover traditional academic subjects such as English, maths, history, modern languages and the sciences.

It is understood there will be a 12-week consultation into the plans, which do not require legislation.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, who is on the Education Select Committee, welcomed the plans as “absolutely essential”.

He said: “There as been too much dumbing down, falling standards and teaching to the tests, which do need to do something drastic to change that.”