HC Deb 06 December 1962 vol 668 cc1477-8
11 and 12. Mrs. Slater

asked the Minister of Education (1) what will be the relationship between the proposed Certificate of Secondary Education and the General Certificate of Education O Level examinations;

(2) whether in accepting the proposals of the Secondary Schools Examinations Council on a new school leaving certificate other than the General Certificate of Education, he accepts the assumption that up to 20 per cent. of the 16-years-old age group may be expected to attempt General Certificate of Education 0 Level in four or more subjects and that the new examination might be taken on four or more subjects by candidates in the next 20 per cent. below these.

Sir E. Boyle

I am still considering the proposals of the Secondary School Examinations Council in its Fifth Report but, as I understand the recommendation which the hon. Member has in mind, the Council intended to give no more than general guidance as to the standard of the examinations.

Mrs. Slater

When the Minister is considering these recommendations, will he take two points into consideration? The suggestion that, if a person takes subjects in G.C.E.—or, to put it the other way round, in the Certificate of Secondary Education—he cannot also take the same subjects in the other examination will be a too rigid rule. Will he also consider the other recommendation that there should be 20 per cent. of the school population considered good enough for G.C.E. and 20 per cent. of it considered good enough for the Certificate of Secondary Education? Will not this put our children in great difficulty, because they cannot move up or down if these percentages are strictly adhered to?

Sir E. Boyle

Of course I will bear all those points in mind. I can tell the hon. Lady that I know that the Certificate of Secondary Education Standing Committee of the Council, with the help of my Department's Curriculum Study Group, is giving a great deal of thought to the relationship which should exist between the two examinations. May I say here and now that I entirely share the view of the Council that if the examination is offered it should stand on its own feet and not just be a pale watered-down imitation of the G.C.E.

Mr. Willey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that most educationists will be relieved that he has an open mind on this matter? Does he realise that if these examinations in practice were to become mutually exclusive it would have a disastrous effect on secondary education?

Sir E. Boyle

I shall bear all these points in mind. I deliberately have not made any public speech on this subject, because I think that much thought is needed before any firm declaration of Ministry policy is made.

Mr. D. Smith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we have too many certificates of educational qualifications, those who are unable to obtain any at all will eventually feel themselves social outcasts?

Sir E. Boyle

This is a point that concerned very many people when the Report was originally received. On the other hand, I think that there are many factors to take into account, and the really important point is to ensure that the new examination stands on its own two feet as something of value and does not simply attempt to be a pale imitation of something else.