Dan Jarvis, MP For Barnsley Central, has released an open letter to Michael Gove MP, in which he attacks the GCSE English grading fiasco and the Secretary of State’s proposed changes to the examination system.
In the House of Commons on Monday, (17th September) Mr Gove announced a new system of examination that will replace GCSE Maths, English and Science, with the first courses for the new exams being taken in 2015. Mr Gove admitted the changes were radical, in his statement to MPs, but Mr Jarvis called them “reckless” and believes they will damage the future prospects and achievements of thousands of children, taking education back to the 1980’s, “creating an analogue education in a digital age.”
“We need a rigorous system that encourages all pupils to achieve their full potential,” said Mr Jarvis. “Examinations must be just one part of a multi-faceted approach, including coursework, continuous assessment and the kind of skills that are relevant to the modern workplace. To restrict testing to only a three-hour final examination will have serious consequences and risks the opportunities and attainment of thousands of children. The reality is, not all students perform well under the pressure of a formal examination, but many can and do achieve high grades when they have the option of coursework or continual assessment.”
Speaking about the re-grading of this year’s GCSE English examination, set by the AQA Exam Board, Mr Jarvis was equally damning. “It is fundamentally unfair for the goalposts to be moved part-way through the academic year,” he said. In his letter to the Secretary of State, Mr Jarvis tells him, “Fairness in such crucial examinations is critical and in that, your department have failed many pupils, parents, teachers and schools.”
He went on to spell out the impact the re-grading could have on some of Barnsley’s school leavers, “This year, in Barnsley, over 45% of students achieved 5 A*-C’s, including English and Maths but a further 7.7% of pupils achieved 5 A* to C including Maths with a D in English. Many of these pupils were expected to pass and now some may face an uncertain future, with college places at risk and apprenticeship offers being withdrawn. It is just wrong.”
Mr Jarvis has also called on Michael Gove to release funding to ensure the financial levy for re-sitting the exam does not fall on the Local Education Authority, schools or parents. He also joined calls for a cross-party inquiry into the issue.