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Nick Gibb: Our focus is building an education system that serves everyone

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To mark GCSE results day, School Standards Minister Nick Gibb writes in today's Telegraph to congratulate the hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds who received their results.

Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister
Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb writes in today's Telegraph:

Yesterday 600,000 16-year-olds collected their GCSE results with the fruits of years of hard work translating into qualifications that are the gateway to the next stage of their education.

Since 2010 we have engaged in serious and far-reaching reform of our education system; ensuring children are taught to read more effectively; improving the teaching of maths in primary schools; and raising standards of behaviour in our schools so children have the peace and security to enable them to learn.

We have increased the rigour of school inspections, demanding ever higher standards. Ofsted, the school inspectorate, now reports that there are over 1.4 million more children attending schools rated as good or outstanding than there were in 2010.

During this period of reform we have sought to eradicate year on year grade inflation in both GCSEs and A levels. Next year we will introduce new world-class GCSEs that will stretch the brightest pupils and ensure parents and employers can have confidence that the grades truly reflect the work and ability of students.

We ended the cycle of interminable retakes and modularisation of GCSEs which meant pupils were spending too much time taking exams at the expense of valuable teaching time. And we have significantly reduced the practice of schools entering pupils for GCSEs in Year 10, a year earlier than normal and often before pupils are ready.

Next year we will introduce new world-class GCSEs that will stretch the brightest pupils.

But we need to go further to make our country a place where there is no limit on what a child can achieve, no matter what their background. In England today, a person’s future is all too often determined by their past – their background or where they’re from. Our education system should offer every student the chance to discover their talents, offering them the widest range of opportunities in order to help them achieve their goals.

That’s why year’s results are the first set where schools are appraised under our new Progress 8 measure. Previously, schools were measured on how well they were performing by the percentage of pupils that achieved 5 A* to Cs at GCSE. But this wasn’t necessarily the best way to judge the work that schools were doing with all pupils of all ability. Too often it meant schools were focused on children on the C/D borderline, putting most effort in to hitting that C grade. Progress 8 is about progress for all children – whether it’s a B to an A* or an F to a D – getting a better result than you expected is a big achievement and that progress should be recognised.

It’s important to remember that Progress 8 is a measure of school performance, not the performance of an individual pupil. That’s how the department is judging schools and it’s how I think schools should be looking at it too.

We are also ensuring there are wider options available so that everyone has a chance to succeed. Staying on at school to study A levels is not for everyone and we now have better options than ever before. High quality apprenticeships give young people a real opportunity to earn while working with some of Britain’s top companies – in fields from nursing to engineering and accountancy to computing. We continue to improve technical education so that it provides direct preparation and clear routes into work developed by employers. We have committed £7 billion this year to fund education and training places for every 16-19 year old who wants one, whether via an apprenticeship, college place or school sixth form.

Our education system is improving and young people and their teachers are working harder than ever before. This is good for our children and good for our country. But we must never be complacent and the focus of this government will be to ensure we build an education system that properly serves everyone, regardless of their background, so even more pupils can secure the qualifications that gives them the best possible chance for the future.

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