Wales and Northern Ireland rebuke on GCSEs announcement

Image caption,
Wales and Northern Ireland's education ministers have discussed GCSE changes at meetings

Wales' education minister and his Northern Irish counterpart have rebuked the UK education secretary about changes to the exam system.

Leighton Andrews and John O'Dowd complained about not being consulted before it emerged the UK government was considering changes to GCSEs.

They wrote to Michael Gove to raise concerns about a lack of prior notice.

The UK education secretary's department said it had to do what was best for English students.

It comes after it emerged that Mr Gove was considering scrapping GCSEs.

Media reports last month revealed a possible return to O-level style exams in England.

The news came as a surprise to the Welsh government which has launched its own review into qualifications.

'Mixed messages'

GCSEs are sat by teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own qualifications systems.

Mr Andrews and Mr O'Dowd wrote to Mr Gove after a meeting last month.

They said it was important that there was communication between the three administrations before any announcements on proposed changes to jointly owned qualifications.

There was a "shared obligation" to avoid causing confusion by sending out "mixed messages", they said.

"Earlier involvement with us, or our officials, in the policy development process would reduce the risk of misunderstanding," they said.

"We believe it would serve our learners and other stakeholders far better if we were to be aware of and sufficiently prepared for announcements which may impact on learners across the three administrations.

Image caption,
Leighton Andrews says there must be communication between the governments

"We would, therefore, welcome the opportunity to meet you to discuss how we can put in place the necessary protocols to ensure that we are all aware of each other's intentions and that there is appropriate liaison prior to any future announcements."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said last month that neither he nor the prime minister knew of the proposal to scrap GCSEs in England until they read it in the papers.

But No 10 sources said the PM did know the details but that they had not been submitted for formal government discussion.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "It's down to the Welsh and Northern Irish administrations to decide how to run their education systems - and down to us to do what is best for English students.

"All the evidence - from parents, the best schools and our leading universities - is that we need reform of GCSEs and A levels so that they are rigorous and match the best in the world.

"We must raise standards and make our qualifications world-class."

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