Tuesday, 18 September 2012

GCSEs: Gove turns back the clock

"We are beginning to create aspirations which increasingly society cannot match … When young people cannot find work at all … or work which meets their abilities or expectations … then we are only creating frustrations with perhaps disturbing social consequences … people must be educated once more to know their place”  Unnamed civil servant, quoted in 'Thirty Years On', Benn/Chitty

Protest outside Ofqual in Coventry yesterday Sept 17 2012
All too predictably, Michael Gove has chosen to use the furore around this summer's English exams to announce his plans to ration the number of top grades and ditch GCSEs altogether.

As the quote below from 1992 shows, this attack from the Tory right has been being coming right from the very introduction of GCSEs. Like any exam system, GCSEs were still there to limit opportunities - but at least attempted to widen those opportunities to a broader number of young people. Now, with the economy in crisis, the Tories have decided that it is time to turn back the clock.
"The Tories present this in terms of a crusade against falling educational standards ... In reality, when Tories talk about doing something to improve standards, they really mean doing something to enforce greater inequality ...

In the summer of 1992, for example, they attacked the results for GCSE. Tory thinking is if results are improving, standards must be falling. Ironically, the relative success of the GCSE has been the very reason why many on the Tory right now want to see it scrapped... 

But it was the Tories themselves, under Keith Joseph, who replaced the existing two tier O level/CSE system with GCSE, arguing that it would lead to higher standards and better qualifications. However, at the time there was economic growth and staff shortages - employers wanted a qualified, educated (to a point) workforce. Now too many young people are being turned out with too many qualifications and high expectations but with too few opportunities. No wonder right wing advisers are advocating a return to O levels and "greater differentiation"  A Socialist Education Programme - Militant Teacher 1992

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