EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove has been forced to abandon his flagship plan to scrap GCSEs and replace them with a new English Baccalaureate.

The move was said to follow pressure from within the coalition from the Liberal Democrats as well as criticism from MPs across the political spectrum.

And local headteachers also criticised the reforms, including the head of Bolton School Boys’ Division, which is one of the country's top schools.

Last week the cross-party Commons Education Committee said the Government had "not proved its case" that GCSEs should be abolished in key academic subjects.

Labour said that it was a "humiliating climbdown" for one of the most high-profile members of the Cabinet.

Mr Gove will now go before the Commons today to set out alternative proposals to reform GCSEs - reducing the role played by course work.

He had originally wanted to introduce the new EBacc certificate in England in the five core academic areas of English, maths, science, languages and humanities - history or geography.

Each of the core subjects would have been handed to a single examination board - a move he argued was essential to prevent boards "dumbing down" standards to attract more schools.

However according to reports in The Independent and The Daily Telegraph, officials warned the plan could fall foul of EU procurement rules.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said Mr Gove should have listened to warnings that the scheme would not work.

"This is a humiliating climbdown from Michael Gove," he said.

"It shows why he should have listened to business leaders, headteachers and experts in the first place and not come up with a plan on the back of an envelope.

"Pupils and parents need certainty now. Michael Gove must now make clear whether he will abandon his narrow, out of date plans altogether or merely try to delay them.

"He needs to go back to the drawing board and develop a curriculum and exam system that meets our future challenges as a country.

"Labour wants to work with the Government to forge a long term consensus on exam and curriculum reform. We would welcome cross party talks."

A Department for Education source said: "We do not comment on leaks. Mr Gove will make a statement to the House."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This is an extremely welcome decision. ASCL has never believed that GCSE is beyond repair and has been advocating this course of action for many months.

"This decision will provide an opportunity to improve the existing qualification and will be warmly welcomed by the profession."