§ Mr. Patrick Thompson
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether it remains his intention that the general certificate of secondary education examinations should go ahead as planned; and if he will make a statement.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
The GCSE will start this year as planned, so that the benefits of this important reform can be achieved as soon as possible.
To ensure the successful start of the new examinations, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have established a national programme of in-service training for teachers unprecedented in its scale and scope. That training is currently under way.
In response to requests from local education authorities and many others for more help with the preparations and with resources, we have decided upon the following additional measures.
First, I will be proposing to the local authority associations that, subject to the consent of Parliament, £20 million of expenditure in England be supported by education support grants in the first two to three years of GCSE courses in order to help secondary schools purchase necessary additional books and equipment. My right hon. Friend is making similar arrangements for Wales.
Secondly, we will be making available a further £200,000 to the GCSE examining groups to enable them to mount additional training seminars for subject representatives from schools who failed to take advantage of seminars held since January—provided that the groups have reason to believe that those teachers will use this second opportunity.
Thirdly, in view of the wholly exceptional nature of this large reform of the school examinations system, we will be bringing regulations before the House to enable local education authorities in England and Wales to close their schools to pupils for two days in the summer term in order to allow teaching staff to undertake more GCSE in-service training than would otherwise be possible.
We are taking these measures in order to ensure that pupils starting GCSE courses this autumn gain maximum benefit from this new educational opportunity. We call upon all concerned to take advantage of these steps and to work together to make the GCSE the success it deserves to be.