From September, students starting GCSEs in England will take their exams at the end of their two-year courses, ending the current option of taking them in modules. In Wales, schools will still be able to choose between the two systems, as they can in Northern Ireland, although the system there is under review.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said:
"We make no apology for breaking the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students’ GCSE courses school shouldn’t be a dreary trudge from one test to the next. Sitting and passing modules has become the be-all and end-all, instead of achieving a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject."
Education Secretary Michael Gove has said that the trend for taking exams in modules has led to a "downgrading" of standards because it encourages teachers to "teach to the test" rather than give pupils broader knowledge of a subject.
"for many of these pupils early GCSE entry can be detrimental".
When plans to end the modularisation of GCSEs and move towards a single final exam were announced in 2010, Voice General Secretary Philip Parkin commented:
"While Voice would welcome fewer exams in total, there are advantages to modular exams and to coursework. They give a more accurate assessment of where pupils are at different parts of a course and encourage pupils to focus throughout a course rather than just prepare for exams."
Also in 2010, this Blog looked at a proposal that the GCSE should be adapted to become a national examination for 14-year-olds, commenting that:
"there is certainly a need to take a fresh look at 14-18 education. GCSEs are already failing many 15 and 16 year olds who would benefit more from a less academic and more vocational pathway from age 14, so one solution would be to have an assessment at age 14 (which could be teacher-led rather than external) to ensure that pupils can choose a suitable pathway (academic, vocational or mixed) from Year 10."
Is there a "constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students' GCSE courses"? Is it better to take them in 'chunks' or all in one go?
Is the Education Secretary once again going against his own policies? If he believes that modular exams encourage teachers to "teach to the test", to the detriment of a broader subject knowledge, isn't the same true and even more so of final, linear exams, where everything depends on one set of tests at the end of a course, making that the ultimate priority?
Could ending the modular system have the opposite effect to the one Mr Gove hopes to achieve?
Is taking GCSEs early really "damaging" and "detrimental"? Some argue that sitting exams early can be beneficial for both the most able and struggling pupils.
Isn't making these decisions, and asking Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw to look at how the practice of early GCSEs can be "discouraged", going against his own policies of supposedly giving more "freedoms" to teachers and to academies and free schools over what and how they teach?
Do let us know your thoughts .