Friday 1 November 2013

GCSEs - Gove sets up more children and schools to 'fail'

A protest that I helped to organise outside the DfE in August 2012
As I wrote on this blog back in June, at the outset of the supposed 'consultation' over changes to GCSEs: "While engagement and success of the many will be what teachers, parents and students want, Michael Gove is working to a very different agenda. As the economy crumbles, the post-war consensus in favour of high quality public services and comprehensive education-for-all is becoming a distant memory". ( See: ).

That's the fundamental ideological difference that needs to be grasped to understand what is driving Gove to impose these damaging policies - along with his other attacks like performance-pay.

It certainly doesn't make any educational sense to rush through yet more curriculum changes without proper trialling and consultation with teaching professionals. Nor can it be right to largely ditch coursework, even though it has allowed students to show skills that can't be so easily assessed in a brief final examination.

However, if your real policy is to turn back the clock and go back to the days when only a small proportion of school-leavers succeeded, then Gove's policies make perfect sense. 

That's why you would scrap most two-tier papers and introduce a new 9-level scale that Ofqual say will allow “greater differentiation” at the highest levels. That's what Gove really means when he says "the new GCSEs in English and mathematics set higher expectations. They demand more from all students and provide further challenge for those aiming to achieve top grades" ( ) .

But would a Secretary of State for Education really want more children and schools to fail ? It would certainly help Gove spread more of his propaganda about 'failure' designed to open-up more schools to the threat of privatisation. However, there are other deep-seated ideological considerations that have underscored Tory educational policy for some time.

The following quote from "Thirty Years On" by Chitty and Benn, rumoured to be from a senior adviser to Sir Keith Joseph, spelt out that big business no longer requires a widely educated workforce:

"There has to be selection because 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

Since that time, economic crisis has taken hold of the world economy. That gives even more reason for Gove and Co. to believe that it is now time to draw up the ladder so that only a select few youngsters are able to succeed.

It is now the responsibility of trade unions to use their strength, backed up by their communities, to defend the gains of the past against those like Gove who are trying to steal them away from us.

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