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Gove introduces GSCE replacement – the EBacc

GCSEs are to be replaced by an English version of the French Baccalaureate qualification, education secretary Michael Gove has announced.

The EBacc, as it will be known, will cover English, maths and sciences and will be adjudicated by one end-of-course external examination. Regulator Ofqual will choose a single exam board to mark the papers to end the current situation, which the Government has characterised as a “race to the bottom”.

Despite earlier leaks that suggested the reforms would involve a two-tier system reminiscent of the CSE and O level divide, the EBacc will be for all abilities – reportedly a concession to ensure Lib Dem backing. However, schools will be able to defer the exam until pupils are 17 or 18 if they predict it will be a struggle.

The qualification will be introduced in 2015, with the first exams being sat in 2017. Initially only core subjects will be examined in this way, with GCSEs in other subjects being taught at the same time. Later, the EBacc will be extended to history, geography and languages.

The aim of the certificates is to end “grade inflation and dumbing down”, Gove said, adding that GCSEs were “conceived and designed for a different age and a different world. The old model, the 80s model, is no longer right for now.”

He continued: “As a result of getting rid of modules, coursework and controlled assessment, less time will be spent on sitting and resitting examinations and more time can be spent on teaching and learning.

“Schools will save money and they will be able to reinvest that money in high quality teaching, high quality learning and stretching every child.”

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the changes would “raise standards for all our children”, but he added that it would “not exclude any children”.

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, told MPs: “Labour is absolutely committed to rigour and raising standards, but this proposed new system does not reflect the needs of society and a modern economy.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “I hope that these proposals are not going to be telling us that we're going to have a system that goes back to something that we used to have in the 1950s, which was suited to a very small part of the population.”

The proposals are currently out to consultation.

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