Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I must not be rude about Michael Gove…

It would’ve been difficult to miss some mention of Education Secretary Michael Gove in the press recently – but you’d be forgiven if you dismissed it as another bit of quizzical leadership.

While it would be an understatement to describe Gove’s presence in Parliament and relationship with educators as tenuous, why are teaching professionals and union reps at odds with Gove and his latest GCSE ‘reform’ attempts?

While writing this article I keep referring to a self-applied challenge:

I must not be rude about Michael Gove,
I must not be rude about Michael Gove,
I must not be rude about Michael Gove…

The truth is that it’s really quite difficult when we’re talking about one of the worst Education Secretaries we’ve had for a long time.

This week he unveiled his plans for qualification reform and if you believe the hype it’s more of a move back to basics and traditional values – not quite chalk and slate but not far off.

Mr Gove claims that no coursework or final year end-of-study exams will end dumbing down, end grade inflation and restore rigours in the classroom. But for those in the education sector the changes proposed do little to help the future academic development of our young people.

For starters, changing the nature of exams doesn’t necessarily mean standards will be raised − that’s more to do with teaching and learning.

These reforms may actually be setting up more children to fail. For instance, raising the bar in the high jump doesn’t necessarily mean everybody will be able to jump over it.

Exams are great for some young people, especially individuals that thrive on memory and recall testing, but they’re not right for everybody. Which is why we still need teacher assessment and extended project work; after all, this is what they will be expected to complete both in further education and at university.

At the end of the day, Gove’s plans are not a radical reform but rather a tinkering of an older, redundant system, which is why everyone from the Head of Eton to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) are questioning whether we really need this sort of high stakes testing at 16, especially when so many young people are going to be staying in education and training for another two years.

If Mr Gove wanted to be a true revolutionist he would’ve axed GCSEs and fully supported an English Baccalaureate that recognises academic and vocational achievement and values other attributes such as personal development. An Ebacc that could match the International Baccalaureate which no one describes as woolly or dumbed down. Only then will our children thrive, flourish and be equipped to compete on an international stage.


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