HEADS across the Five Valleys have welcomed the Government U-turn on plans to scrap GCSEs and replace them with a new qualification.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, education secretary Michael Gove said plans for new, tougher exams were a ’bridge too far’.

In September, he proposed to introduce a single exam board which would provide more rigorous examinations in core subjects, but these plans were highly critisised by MPs and teachers.

The change means plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate Certificate are being shelved – despite claims from the education secretary that the new qualification would address ‘dumbing down’ of examinations.

Julia Maunder, headteacher of Thomas Keble School in Eastcombe, welcomed the move to abandon plans for another change to qualifications in England.

"There is scope to refine the content and ensure consistency in standards without ditching the qualification itself," said Mrs Maunder.

"The GCSE as is provides a cohesive qualification structure which employers, students and parents are familiar with."

Tim Withers, headteacher of Stroud High School, said: "I feel very strongly that arts education is very important to a pupils development and it was completely ignored in the baccalaureate.

"Some of our students who have studied textiles have gone on to work at companies such as Burberry. For them the core subjects were not the most important aspect of their education."

Margie Burnet Ward, head of Wycliffe College said that some of the rhetoric used in the GCSE debate was having the most impact on students whose hard work and results have been called into question.

Headteacher of Maidenhill School in Stonehouse, Pam Wilson said: "All students need the chance to show what they can achieve. What they don’t need is for the government to show them what they cannot achieve."

Stroud’s former Labour MP, David Drew, said he hoped that the massive U-turn would now concentrate Mr Gove's mind on a better way forward.

"He should try to start working with teachers, pupils, parents, employers and educational professionals to improve not denigrate our system of education," said Mr Drew.

Stroud MP Neil Carmichael, who is also a member of the education select committee, said it was great to see that the committee’s report – which was written when the original plans were published – has had an impact.

The former Marling School governor added: "We do however need a rigorous curriculum for pupils so that when they come to face life outside of education they will be able to succeed."