CHARLES GRAHAM - Exam shake-up yes, O-levels no

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THERE is no guarantee that Michael Gove will see his wish fulfilled and have GCSEs replaced by something akin to O-levels again.

While the current system does indeed have some credibility problems and there are plenty of folk who hark back to those halcyon days of “proper exams,” I am not sure there is much of a political appetite for a return to two-tier education any more than there is for exhuming the 11-plus.

One group who would be suited with an O-level revival is boys though.

There has been a yawning gap between performance of the two genders since GCSEs were introduced because bite-sized study for exams and more of an emphasis on course work plays to female strengths of stamina and concentration.

Boys have been shown to fare better when the work that counts towards the grades is all heaped together in a blizzard of exams at the end of a two-year course.

That in itself isn’t a reason for changing England’s means of externally testing its pupils though.

It is the fact that we are falling further and further behind in the developed world’s table of academic performance which should be the motivation behind a more rigorous examination system. This is despite our GCSE results improving every year for seemingly decades.

What that says about the current set-up is open to interpretation while there is no question that our current young people aren’t working extremely hard.

But when there are more and more countries leaving us behind and there are processions of English students with mulitiple A*s, there has to be some way of distinguishing between the very good and the outstanding while further upping standards.

Not sure that O-levels are the answer though.