HEADTEACHERS have welcomed Michael Gove’s dramatic U-turn over plans to axe GCSEs.

The education secretary’s flagship plan to ditch the exams and replace them with new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) in core academic subjects are said to have been abandoned following widespread opposition and pressure from the Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

Headteachers des-cribed it is a “step in the right direction” and called for confidence to be restored in the exams by addressing problems that exist in the system.

Chairman of Bolton Secondary Headteachers John Porteous said: “Some commentators are talking about a climbdown, but in reality this is at least one step in the right direction.

“The EBacc was never a sensible solution for the 21st century world our students will move into.

“The important thing now is to think through properly how GCSE exams are to be refined and to rebuild confidence in the system.

“Our young people need to know where they stand as they make option choices and plan their futures.

“Some consistency and stability from government and examination authorities will be helpful.”

Head of Bolton School Boys’ Division, Philip Britton, said he was pleased that the EBC would not be the “way forward”.

But he added: “We should not forget that staying as things are with GCSE is not a way forward either.

“There are problems with GCSE which need to be addressed, the most acute of which are their ability to stretch the able and, more generally, the quality and reliability of the assessment.

“Nothing will get better with qualifications until the government properly add- resses the fact that exam results year-on-year vary widely when the ability of the pupils does not.”

Mr Gove has set out alternative proposals to reform GCSEs instead of introducing EBC in core subjects.

New GCSEs in English, maths, science, history and geography will be ready for teaching in 2015.

They will still be “universal qualifications”, taken by the vast majority of pupils.

The qualifications will no longer be modular and will rely on end-of-course exams, which will test extended writing in subjects such as English, with less structured questions.

Internal assessment and the use of exam aids will also be kept to a minimum.