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School leaders are unconvinced by GCSE reforms, says NAHT

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Today is a day to celebrate the success of thousands of young people, who have been supported in their achievements by school leaders, teachers and support staff.

“But today is also a moment to remember that the government is still struggling to find the right answers when it comes to GCSEs.

“This year’s results data shows a few worrying trends, proving that GCSE and accountability reforms are not working for all students.

“Students who get a grade 3 in English or Maths must retake the GCSE. But this year only 22.7% of 17-year-olds (and over) attained a grade 4 or above in Maths. Forcing students to repeatedly retake is demoralising and demotivating. This policy has to change, so students have a choice to take a more appropriate qualification.

“This year, there has been an increase in early entry for English Literature, at age 15. The conclusion we draw is that schools are choosing to enter students for English Literature early, to reduce the exam pressure at 16, and to allow a full year’s focus on English Language. Accountability measures mean all students have to take English Literature in order for English to be double counted. This is not a policy focussed on what is right for students.

“Secondary schools and their students have had to survive an avalanche of change to GCSE qualifications. The question school leaders are asking is whether all the change has been worth it.

“In various ways, government policy now restricts what schools can offer and provides a very narrow set of measures to judge a school’s effectiveness. Funding cuts, recruitment problems, the EBacc measure; all mean that students have a narrower range of subjects to choose from. The Progress 8 measure of school performance is still as likely to confuse parents as it is to inform them.

“In short, despite radical reform, there’s little evidence that schools and young people are better off.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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