Rejecting the suggestion that the June GCSE 2012 exams should be regraded, Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, said the time was right for an overhaul of GCSEs
to ensure they were “rigorous”.
Wilshaw told the Andrew Marr show that "One of the worries I have and I know other people have, is that our standards are falling in relation to other countries in the rest of the world. English is the world language, it is the business language. We know that we have fallen from 7th in reading to 25th in the world. In maths from 7th to 28th. That is not good enough.”
No, it isn’t good enough that the Chief Inspector for Schools should repeat discredited information. Sir Michael holds an extremely responsible position and he should, therefore, have the most up-to-date and relevant information at his finger tips. And yet he has regurgitated the “plummeting down league tables” rhetoric which, as regular Local Schools Network readers will know, can only be justified by using the 2000 figures for the PISA international tests. And these figures have been found to be faulty by the organisation that published them in the first place. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which sets and administers the three-yearly PISA tests has warned that the figures are flawed and could not be used for comparison
Sir Michael is, however, right that GCSEs need overhauling. But tinkering with the present system which Mr Gove proposes is not enough. If Sir Michael and Mr Gove are serious that the exam system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland needs to match the world’s best then they should consider scrapping GCSEs at 16 and bringing in a graduation diploma at age 18. This is the system in most of the rest of the world (see FAQs above for details of the exam systems in other countries).
The Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out that England is out-of-step with most other countries
: “England is actually rather unusual in having a high stakes school leaving exam at 16. Most countries focus on exams when most young people in fact leave school at 17 or 18. The system in England looks rather like a left over from a time when the majority of young people did expect to leave school at 16. Now that the vast majority stay on past 16 to do further qualifications there must be some question over the role of a set of exams which may signal to some that leaving at 16 is expected, particularly in the context of government policy to raise the “education participation age” to 18.”
In March 2010 Sir Michael Wilshaw was a member of the review group for the Sir Richard Sykes Review of Examinations
. This assessment was commissioned by Michael Gove when he was Shadow Secretary of State for Education. The Review commented that “nowhere in the world requires formal external assessment to the extent currently practised in England”.
Michael Gove seems to have missed this statement. Sir Michael seems to have forgotten it.