Podcast - Introducing the General Certificate of Education

Introducing the General Certificate of Education

27 Nov 2020 (2:57)

Download this podcast (mp3, 2mb)

Introducing the General Certificate of Education - an extract from Chapter 3 of 'Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate', by Helen and John Patrick.

As part of a special series of short podcasts, Cambridge Assessment's Group Archivist Gillian Cooke shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Find out more about our Archives & Heritage

Podcast transcript

Alana Walden: [00:00:07.34]

Hello. Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. I'm Alana Walden, and I'm here to introduce a special series from Cambridge Assessment's Archives and Heritage. In each episode, our group archivist Gillian Cooke shares short extracts from Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, our publication that shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:36.53]

Introducing the General Certificate of Education from Examining the World, Chapter 3, by Helen & John Patrick

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:42.83]

As part of the drive for reconstruction in the years following the Second World War, the education system was developed and reorganised.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:49.38]

Despite the huge pressure on resources, provision was made for secondary school places for all children over the age of eleven, and in 1947 the school leaving age was raised to fifteen.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:59.72]

The possibility of staying on at school to take external examinations at age sixteen and beyond was opened up to a great many more pupils.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:07.66]

The new General Certificate of Education examinations were scheduled to begin in 1950, but the Minister soon realised that this did not allow enough time to make the necessary changes and postponed their introduction until 1951.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:20.73]

The Syndicate prepared for the new examinations and set up a special committee. 

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:25.33]

But a feature of the new system was greater central control and co-ordination, with examining bodies' representatives removed from the Secondary School Examinations Council.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:35.17]

The examining bodies set about trying to remedy the situation, and in 1951 the Syndics were able to report the appointment of a new advisory committee which reported regularly and directly to the Council.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:46.68]

At the same time a change was made in the Syndicate's examination administration.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:51.81]

In 1944 a School Examinations Committee, with school and local education authority representatives, had been set up for an experimental period to oversee the Syndicate's UK examinations.   

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:03.64]

This had proved so successful that it was incorporated into the permanent structure of the Syndicate. 

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:08.80]

The Syndicate found that GCE attracted more candidates. Students who might have balked at the requirements of School Certificate or Higher School Certificate felt able to attempt one or two subjects in the new examination.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:21.56]

Although the Syndicate had more candidates, there were fewer subject entries per candidate.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:26.69]

At advanced level there was around a third more candidates in 1951 than had taken Higher School Certificate the year before.  

Alana Walden: [00:02:33.90]

Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. You can find more of our podcasts on our website, just search for Podcast Gallery. Or you can find us on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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