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CofE welcomes GCSE U-turn

The Church of England praises today's announcement to scrap plans to axe GCSE's in England but still has concerns over the place Religious Education will have in the curriculum.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn and scrapped proposals to introduce an English Baccalaureate Certificate after opposition from coalition MPs. Instead there will be a new eight-subject measure of GCSEs, including English and maths, three subjects out of sciences, languages, history and geography and three other subjects, such as art, music or RE. Education Secretary Michael Gove told MPs in the Commons why he's changed his tune.

Today's U-turn comes after a report by the Commons education committee which said there were concerns about the changes being pushed through too quickly which could damage exam quality.  So instead Mr Gove set out new proposals to reform existing qualifications.

There'll be changes to what children will learn from the day they start school. They'll be taught fractions earlier, and they'll have to learn more times-tables. There'll also be far more IT on the curriculum, with five-year-olds learning to be safe online, and primary school pupils writing computer programs. The Church of England had concerns about the Government's Ebacc plans because it felt Religious Education would be downgraded as a core subject.

Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England's Chief Education Officer said:

"In modern society understanding and learning about faith has never been more important for both civic discourse and cultural enrichment, and we eagerly await the findings of the All Party Parliament Group on RE to be published next month. 

"Church schools have always followed the national curriculum, providing an inclusive education with a distinctive Christian ethos, with a commitment to the disadvantaged.  

"We hope that Mr Gove's plans will put the good of all pupils first, not just the academically gifted."

John Keast, Chair of the Religious Education Council, has told the Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour he's glad the minister's had a re-think but is still concerned about the importance placed on RE:

Premier's Political Editor Martyn Eden told the News Hour that RE remains a casualty of the reforms:

The Catholic Education Service said: "It is clear that the government's own consultation regarding examination reform showed broad consensus, accepting the need for reform yet rejecting the initial proposals for that reform. 

"That the Secretary of State proposes to reform exams 'with the help of school and university leaders' is particularly welcome. 

"We are, however, disappointed that Religious Education remains effectively relegated to outside the 'core' under these proposals when it is at the very heart of the curriculum in every one of our more than 2000 schools in England. 

"GCSE RE is a valuable and worthwhile subject, but it could be better, and we hope to be able to work with Ofqual and Examination Boards to ensure that it becomes so."

Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg told MPs today's announcement was a "humiliating climb-down" and exam policy a "total shambles".

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