Labour calls for exams shake-up rethink
Labour has urged the government to rethink its "backward-looking" reforms to England's school exam system, saying the changes have little support and are bad for the economy.
The GCSE exam system is going to be replaced in core subjects by a qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBCs).
Controlled assessment will be scrapped and there will be a single end-of-course exam and one exam board for core subjects, under the shake-up.
Schools Minister David Laws told the Commons on 16 January 2013 that the time was right to move on from GCSEs.
But shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the system proposed by the government would "undermine our future economic position not strengthen it".
He accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of trying to reintroduce the two-tier system of O-levels and CSEs, despite widely articulated concerns over the substance and implementation of EBCs.
Labour, he said, accepted the need for reform of the assessment and qualification system, which is why it had called for an independent review for 14-19 education in England.
Mr Twigg told the Commons the country needed vocational qualifications that were fit for purpose, with Labour proposing a Technical Baccalaureate.
But Mr Laws insisted: "There will be no return to the divisive, two-tier, system of the past."
He said the reforms "look outwards" to learn from the "best performing" schools in the world that "deliver rigorous qualifications accessible to all children".
The chair of the Education Committee, Conservative Graham Stuart, questioned why the government had not planned to abolish all GCSEs.
"Isn't there a risk that there's a signal sent that the remaining GCSEs, if the government has said that GCSEs are broken and as a brand are broken and irrecoverable, then most subjects - and an awful lot of children's time - will be spent studying for something which the government officially is saying is broken?" he asked.
Mr Laws said the government had "no intention" of allowing subjects not included in the English Baccalaureate to be "downgraded."
MPs rejected Labour's motion calling for a government rethink of the proposed reforms, by 308 to 239, government majority of 69.