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Michael Gove's GCSE Exam Changes Are Welcome, Says Burlington Danes Academy Headteacher

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Gove's changes look set to phase out coursework | Alamy

A school principal has welcomed controversial changes to the exam system which will be officially unveiled by Michael Gove on Monday but public opinion remains divided.

The changes, which have already been leaked to a tabloid newspaper, aim to bring back the "tough" exams which existed under the O-level system and look set to phase out coursework in favour of a single examination.

Sally Coates. head of Burlington Danes Academy in West London, told the Press Association she would be in favour of the new exams, which unlike the two-tier O-level system, will be sat by all pupils.

"For a long time now we've needed more rigour in our exams, to gain more credibility and catch up with countries all over the world," Coates said.

"I wouldn't want there to be two tiers, I don't think children should be divided into two different types of exam."

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The academy, which has 1,200 pupils aged 11 to 18, was paid a visit from the education secretary and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on Monday morning.

Asked if changes would mean the present system was discredited, Coates added: "I don't think discredited is the right word. This year there has been a problem with the GCSE, which I hope will be resolved, but I think it's a credible exam, as it stands, but we need to raise the standard.

"In some areas the GCSEs have been too easy, there's been a shortage of essay-type answers in exams, and more short responses."

Stephen Twigg MP, Labour's shadow education secretary, called the changes "totally out of date".

"Whatever the reassurances, this risks a return to a two-tier system which left thousands of children on the scrap heap at the age of 16. Why else are the changes being delayed until 2017?

"Schools do need to change as all children stay on in education to 18 and we face up to the challenges of the 21st Century. We won't achieve that with a return to the 1980s. Instead, we need a system that promotes rigour and breadth, and prepares young people for the challenges of the modern economy."

The Welsh Government has indicated the country may not be following suit, meaning children across the border could potentially have a completely different system to their English counterparts.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "As always, our priority will be to ensure that the best interests of our learners are the focus of any decisions that we take.

"In Wales we will be taking an evidence based approach through our Review of 14-19 Qualifications. This is a decision that cannot be rushed and Welsh Ministers are committed to not making significant changes to GCSEs until after the outcomes of the Review are known.

"The Review Board are due to publish their findings at the end of November.

"We await a formal announcement from the UK Government and will respond in due course."

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