23 August 2017
Commenting ahead of the announcement of GCSE results, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
“Congratulations to all students receiving their GCSE results. A significant amount of hard work has been put in over the past two years and students and teachers alike always rise to the challenge.
“However, the extent and seriousness of the issues faced by schools and colleges is concerning. The fall in entry for non-EBacc subjects, such as design & technology, art and music, continues this year, as it did last. Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has called for a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’. Yet, after finally releasing its response to the EBacc consultation, 18 months after it closed, the Government has decided to ignore the views of the profession and plough ahead with a measure that offers students directly the opposite: a prescriptive, narrow curriculum.
“The reformed GCSEs taken by this cohort in English and maths, and which will be taken in almost all subjects by next year’s students, are the legacy of Michael Gove. Their syllabuses are less engaging and less accessible, and involve a large reduction in coursework and other non-exam assessment methods. This reduces the opportunities for students to show what they can do and increases the high-stakes nature of the exams. Putting more emphasis on final exams is hitting hardest those who require the most support, such as disadvantaged students and students with special education needs. A narrower and less accessible curriculum reduces both student motivation and engagement with learning.
“In terms of accountability, the new 9-1 GCSEs bring with them damaging side-effects for schools, colleges and teachers. Despite the approach of ‘comparable outcomes’, which may make the national picture look broadly similar, schools and colleges will still experience volatility in their results. In a climate where test results are used as a hard and fast measure of school performance and to make judgements on teachers’ performance and their pay, this volatility can have unfair consequences. The indicators used to measure schools in England are not fit for purpose. They do not measure what they are set out to, they cause unnecessary stress and anxiety and they are driving educational practice that does not put the needs of the student first.
“The stress emanating from unfair and inaccurate accountability measures and the less-engaging, restricted curriculum add to a storm gathering over the educational landscape. School funding is inadequate. Real term pay levels are declining yet workload continues to increase. These factors will exacerbate problems of recruitment and retention. We must not accept a situation where schools can’t offer a full range of subjects, taught by appropriately qualified teachers.”