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Examinations (16-Plus)

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 19 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about school examinations taken at 16-plus years.

The present dual system of GCE O-level and CSE examinations has serious deficiencies. I informed the House last July that the Government believed it to be right to seek to remedy those deficiencies provided that could be done without putting educational standards, particularly those represented by O-levels, and public confidence in those standards, at risk.To that end my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have consulted the main parties concerned. In the light of our consultations the Government have decided in favour of reform based on two main principles:

  • i. the separate grading systm of GCE O-level and CSE must be incorporated in a single consistent system of clearly defined grades;
  • ii. national criteria must be established fox syllabuses and assessment procedures to ensure that all syllabuses with the same subject title have sufficient content in common, and that all boards apply the same performance standards to the award of grades.
  • The Government believe that a reformed system based on these principles can be established and operated by close co-operation and joint working where appropriate by groups of CSE and GCE boards, with the GCE boards retaining responsibility for the standards of the


    Numbers at June of year

    Lecturers and Teachers

    Other Staff






    higher grades. The maintenance of the standards of the present GCE 0-level within the new system of grades is an essential feature of our proposals. We see no need for new regional examining authorities of the kind proposed in the previous Government's White Paper (Cmnd. 7368), although some mergers of boards and modification of CSE board areas may be desirable.

    The Education Departments will shortly open discussions with the examining boards and others concerned about the implementation of these decisions.

    I believe that these changes will make the examination system fairer to pupils and more intelligible to parents, employers and the public generally. I also believe that they will eliminate some weaknesses which have developed in school examinations and support other measures the Government are taking in regard to the curriculum and standards of performance in our schools.