A NORTH-East council has accused the government of treating pupils like “guinea pigs” following a significant drop in GCSE results in County Durham.

A report by Durham County Council found that the number of teenagers achieving at least A* to C in English and maths had fallen to almost six per cent below the national average in 2017.

Councillor Olwyn Gunn, speaking at a cabinet meeting today, blamed the fall on the revised GCSE exams, brought in by former education minister Michael Gove.

She said: “It’s fair to say our young people have become known as Gove’s guinea pigs.

“Exams have become a penalty shoot out in terms of there being no second chances for pupils. Young people who do better in course work have suffered unfortunately.”

She added: “I applaud staff for the way in which they worked through unwelcome changes to a system that wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing.”

Cllr Ossie Johnson said: “It really is disappointing that all the hard work teachers, children and families have done in County Durham to be hit by these unfair changes in exams.”

A report looking at exam performance concluded that schools were not ready to respond to the changed examination and assessment system and also highlighted problems with the recruitment of teachers, particularly in maths.

Nationally there was a small improvement in GCSE results. However, progress dipped in all 12 authorities in the North-East.

Cllr Alan Napier said: “This has had an impact, not just across County Durham. It has had a negative impact right across the North-East.

“My suspicion is that these results will look quite different in the South-East. An education system should be fair to all.”

Reviews of English, maths, science, languages, geography and history have been made to improve results.

The cabinet heard progress was above average at key stages two, three and five. Early years development was also above average for the first time since 2014, as a result of targeted intervention.

Cllr Gunn said: “The main message is that the outcome in the majority of areas continue to improve for children in County Durham.”