In an article for Absolutely Education magazine Head of Bedales Magnus Bashaarat debates the value of GCSEs with Samantha Price, Headmistress of Benenden School.
Samantha Price argues that GCSEs at 16 ensure that young people experience a broad curriculum that sets them up for both further study and life. Magnus counters that they should be abolished as they stifle creative teaching, and because everyone now must stay in full-time education, or follow an apprenticeship or training, until 18.
The orthodoxy of deeming some educational subjects worthy (STEM, English etc) and others less so is suspect, says Magnus. Rather, he says, young people should study technical and creative subjects if they are to be prepared for the 21st century labour market.
He explains: “It is encouraging that many of the ‘new’ universities offer imaginative programmes in emerging creative and technological fields, and are similarly broad-minded in their entry requirements. The problem is that secondary level education has failed to keep pace with the vision and ambition of universities such as these.”
By way of redress, he recommends that policy makers revisit the 2004 Tomlinson Report, which recommended replacing GCSEs and A-Levels with a diploma covering both academic and vocational pathways, allowing for their combination.
He concludes: “Crucially, the report favoured diverse assessment methodologies. I suspect that the authors might like what we are doing at Bedales, first, through the introduction of BACs (Bedales Assessed Courses) as an alternative to some GCSEs, and now more recently with the introduction of the Enrichment Programme for Sixth Formers.”
The full articles can be read on the Absolutely Education website here.