The recent publication of official papers from the 1980s provides further context to the introduction of GCSEs. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/30/national-archives-revelations-released-documents .
The new common exam, reflected the growth of comprehensive schools, many being given the go ahead by Thatcher herself, while a dual system of CSE and GCE O-level examinations, the former still acting primarily as a ‘leaving’ certificate for ‘non-academic’ young people was also becoming increasingly inappropriate, as staying on rates continued to increase. In addition many schools were able to ensure that their students were being awarded CSE grade 1 (O-level equivalent). Despite this however, the papers report Prime Minister Thatcher’s concern that GCSE would result in too high levels of exam success, reflecting the extent to which New Right thinking was already starting to sweep through the education system.
GCSE, possibly because it was so new, was able to survive the Education Reform Act, although tiering was quickly introduced. …
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