Members of the country’s school leadership unions, NAHT and ASCL, have today prepared a letter to parents on behalf of secondary heads expressing their concern and frustration with the government's lack of planning and direction for GCSEs.The secondary heads say the latest announcement of changes to reporting mechanisms for early GCSE exam entries – just weeks before students were due to sit them – is the latest in a series of disruptive, unplanned changes rushed in by the Department for Education that have left schools and pupils in disarray.
The letter reads:
For the third time in the last two years, we have had to alter our plans for GCSEs because of a sudden announcement from the government. We know how important these exams are to you and we are frustrated we cannot focus all our energies on raising results.Without any notice and with immediate effect, the government has limited schools' ability to enter students early for GCSEs - after we had already planned entries for the year. Early entry can serve many good purposes, including vital 'live' preparation for later exams.
It seems that barely a term goes by without another sudden change to GCSE examinations. Worst of all, these changes are often made in the middle of students' courses of study, making it impossible to plan properly or to focus on learning rather than constant administrative change. They changed grade boundaries between exam sittings; they dropped the vital skills of speaking and listening from English mid-course; and now this latest announcement.These changes are often timed to coincide with party conferences or similar events, leading us to fear that students and schools are just collateral damage in party political squabbles.
Head teachers are ambitious for every child in their school. They are the first to admit that our education must constantly improve. We have achieved much - our schools are unrecognisable compared to 10 years ago - but we have far to go. We see no reason, other than the date of the next election, why change needs to be rushed without consultation or planning. Ultimately it is students who suffer.We wanted to explain to you our position on these reforms: we believe they are disrupting your children's education and undermining their hard work. We wanted to let you know that we will continue to help students navigate the system as best we can. And we wanted to encourage you to contact politicians and let them know how the changes are affecting you and your family. Ministers are distant from the front line and the realities of teaching. They cannot see the confusion and chaos being created; nor do they have any respect for the views of the profession. They may listen to you.
Leaders in Secondary Education
Reproduced in full
9th October 2013