The GCSE exam for 16 year old children in England is to be replaced by an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc), with the first courses to begin in September 2015, it was announced today.

The new qualification will scrap the modules retakes and aim to reduce reliance on coursework.

Children of all abilities will take the EBacc and there will be only one exam board for each subject.

Education Secretary Michael Gove and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

We need a new set of exams for students at the age of 16 - qualifications which are more rigorous and more stretching for the able, but which will ensure the majority of children can flourish and achieve their full potential.

The announcement was made in a joint article in the Evening Standard several hours before Mr Gove was due to outline his plans in a statement to the House of Commons.

Officially announcing the reforms in parliament, Mr Gove called for "the race to the bottom to end" and said that it was time to raise student aspirations and "restore rigour" to the examination system.

Mr Gove also said that the new examination system would make "enhanced provision" for students who find them difficult - with students who feel that they would not be able to sit the exams at 16 would instead be able to sit them at 17 or 18.

The plans have been criticised by shadow secretary of state for education, Stephen Twigg, who said that getting rid of coursework was "totally out of date."

"The education leaving age is rising to 18, we need to face the challenges of the 21st century.

"But I simply don't accept that we achieve that by returning to a system abolished as out of date in the 1980s.

"Instead, we need a system that promotes rigour and breadth, and prepares young people for the challenges of the modern economy." he said.

Former Labour education secretary David Blunkett urged Mr Gove to adopt a more collaborative approach to the exam plans.

He said: "Isn't it time to stop the chest banging, the belligerence, the sheer artificial anger about the past and agree to collaborate in the interests of parents and pupils, of head teachers and teaching staff...and not in the way that's currently being described which is, 'we know best, you know nothing, we're going to do it'?"