Amid the usual cries of the dumbing down of standards, schools were praised for another increase in this year’s overall exam results.
At GCSE level, a rise in achievement in the basics of English and maths was picked out for particular praise — these subjects are the ‘bedrock’ of every student’s education, said Schools Minister Jacqui Smith.
She also highlighted the increased entries for vocational GCSEs, saying that this showed how positively students were responding to the increased choices available to them from 14. ‘These qualifications are supported by employers and will form the building blocks of the new specialised diplomas announced in the 14–19 White Paper’ she said. Findings of a recent NFER research report have confirmed the positive impact vocational courses are having on students.
Commenting on the annual rally of dissent about the exam system, NUT General Secretary Steve Sinnott said: ‘There is need for reform of our examination system but not as a result of any dumbing down but because of the changing demands of modern society.’
Value of advice on options for future
Prior to the results being announced, Jacqui Smith stressed the importance of students gaining advice on options so that they made the best choices for their future career. ‘No matter what an individual’s results might be it is vital that they know that no doors are closed to them,’ she said. ‘A levels, apprenticeships, BTECs and NVQs are just some of the routes by which everyone can stay on and get on.’
She flagged up the service provided by Connexions — the Government’s frontline support service for all 13 to 19-year-olds. But this is one of the services under threat in the proposed Youth Matters reforms.
For advice on how to make effective use of the Connexions advisers in your school, see the Case in Point feature in the February 2005 issue of CMU.
During the summer break, the external advisory group set up to advise the Government on implementing changes to 14–19 learning met for the first time. The group is charged with ensuring that implementation of the 14–19 White Paper is driven by practical guidance on how to achieve success in school.
The 14-member group, including two headteachers and one assistant head, got straight down to business by discussing local delivery models, specialised diplomas and timelines for implementation. Later this term, the group will publish a plan setting out how and when 14–19 changes will impact on learners, teachers, and schools.