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Exams shake-up 'a huge mistake'
Education Secretary Michael Gove has made "a huge mistake" in his shake-up of English secondary school exams, a Conservative grandee has warned.
Lord Baker predicted that the new EBacc (English Baccalaureate) system will squeeze vocational subjects out of the curriculum, leaving schools with "a lot of disgruntled youngsters" who are not inspired by academic subjects.
The former Cabinet minister - who introduced the national curriculum and school league tables while education secretary from 1986-89 - said he did not believe Mr Gove's reforms would survive a change of government.
The EBacc was introduced as a performance measure in 2010, recognising pupils who secure a C grade or better in five "core" GCSEs - English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language. From 2015, pupils will study for English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs), which will replace GCSEs in the core subjects.
Mr Gove argues that the EBacc will encourage young people to study the key academic subjects which lead to worthwhile qualifications, but critics warn it will marginalise creative arts and vocational subjects.
Lord Baker told The Independent: "I think that's a huge mistake. There will be a lot of disgruntled youngsters at 13 or 14 who are fed up with the English Baccalaureate because it's not their cup of tea. A lot of youngsters aren't turned on by it. I don't think the English Baccalaureate will survive a change of government."
The Tory peer, who chairs the Baker Dearing Educational Trust which promotes University Technical Colleges, said that a better reform would be to delay from 11 to 14 the age at which children transfer from primary to secondary school.
A network of 33 UTCs is planned across England, each sponsored by a university and offering a technically-oriented course of study for children aged 14-19, as well as links to local businesses.
In a forthcoming book, Lord Baker will argue that 14 is a better age than 11 for pupils to move to a more specialist learning environment. "I think 11 is too soon to change and 16 is too late," he said.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "The English Baccalaureate recognises achievement in the subjects which employers and universities value. Studying its full five subjects does not mean that no other subjects can be studied. We also want young people to have the option of high-quality vocational education. That is why we are investing in University Technical Colleges, as championed by Lord Baker, and Studio Schools, which offer practical education combined with work experience. We have already given the go-ahead to 33 UTCs and 30 Studio Schools. We have announced a new Technical Baccalaureate which will recognise achievement in the best vocational qualifications. There are no plans to change the age at which secondary education begins."