Gove admits GCSE overhaul would have been 'one reform too many'

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Education Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed his plans to replace GCSEs with the English Baccalaureate Certificate have been scrapped, admitting the idea amounted to "one reform too many".

Instead of new qualifications, GCSEs will be reformed, with exams taken at the end of the course rather than in modules, extended questions and less internal assessment.

He also told MPs he will not go ahead with plans to hand each of the core English Baccalaureate subjects to a single exam board.

"My idea that we end the competition between exam boards to offer GCSEs in core academic qualifications and have just one - wholly new - exam in each subject was just one reform too many at this time," Mr Gove said.

It was a "humiliating climbdown" in the words of shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg, who said: "The words 'GCSE' and 'fiasco' seem to be indelibly linked under this government.

"The trouble with this secretary of state is he thinks he knows the answer to everything, so he digs out the fag packet and comes up with his latest wheeze," Mr Twigg added.

The education secretary also came under fire from MPs on his own backbenches, with Chatham and Aylesford's Tracey Crouch accusing him of "constant tinkering with the curriculum".

Labour's Barry Sheerman, who previously chaired of the Education Committee, complained Mr Gove of "galloping through the statement" and leaving the House unclear on its content.

In reply, the education secretary insisted "the clarity of our proposals is understood very well" and that "one of the areas which matters most to heads and teachers - how they teach - will be devolved to their responsibility".

Others found much to praise in the statement.

Conservative MP Nick Gibb, a former schools minister, called the changes a clear improvement on the 2007 curriculum, which he branded "hugely damaging to cultural and scientific literacy".

Labour's former Education Secretary David Blunkett said he rose to "welcome some of the changes" as well "a glimmer of humility" from the education secretary.

Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson said he was "delighted we're now moving towards rigorous reforms".

Mr Gove also used the statement as an opportunity to highlight reforms to vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, which he said had been widely acknowledged as successful.

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