Educational press-reports-2012: "The corrosion of Education"
ARCHIVED on 11 November 2015


The prospect of five-year-olds being taught in temporary classrooms, having to travel long distances or getting no school place at all is now causing a tremor in Whitehall. … Figures published this month show that 20% of primary schools are already full or over capacity. And demand is set to mushroom. The facts are stark. … Last July, official figures showed that the number of children of nursery and primary school age in England is due to rise by 14% between 2010 and 2018. From a low point of 3.95 million in 2009, the number of primary-school-age children is projected to rise to 4.51 million in 2018. This increase of more than half a million will take the primary school population to its highest level since the late 1970s. This is not a problem that has just emerged. Key stage 1 numbers have been rising since 2009. Key stage 2 numbers will rise from September. These children were born several years ago, and projections of population increase for this age group have been around for some while. Yet despite this, in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, the DfE's capital budget was cut by 60% over the current parliament.


Michael Gove is on course to complete what Kenneth Baker began [in 1988]: the creation of a fully centralised school system in which the secretary of state has the powers of an elected dictator. …

The trustees of an academy have to sign a contract with the secretary of state who, for all practical purposes, is the sole source of funding. He or she, after giving notice, can turn off the tap and close the school at any time. The public, including parents, have no rights to lodge objections, still less to have then seriously considered. Nor is there any statute law concerning academies that gives anyone a basis to challenge an education secretary’s decisions.

PRIVATISATION - A POLITICAL TIME-BOMB Mehdi Hasan New Statesman, 20 February 2012

David Bell, who was permanent secretary at the Department of Education until the end of 2011, said this month that he, like the Education Secretary, saw “no principled objection” to profit-making companies taking over state schools and predicted that they would “probably” do so eventually. …

At the Institute of Education, Professor Stephen Ball sees Gove’s reforms as “a softening up of the system for further privatisations”. He cites the scrapping of the General Teaching Council, the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Support Staff Negotiating Body as evidence that England’s school workforce is being made “more manageable and cheaper. Salary costs are the major issue for for-profit providers.” This isn’t about freedom for local communities, it’s about freedom for big corporations.

And don’t believe the fraudulent rhetoric about “choice”. … Take Downhills Primary Schools in Tottenham, north London, which the Department for Education is forcing to become an academy despite vociferous and public protests by hundreds of local parents and teachers. The response from the Education Secretary? He dismissed his opponents in north London as “Trots” and claimed that they were “happy with failure”. …

Education could become as toxic for the Tories as health. Reckless, dogmatic and without the backing of any discernible electoral mandate, Gove’s free-market reforms to our schools system are a political time-bomb waiting to explode.

“STATE NEEDN’T DIRECTLY PROVIDE SCHOOLS” Stephen Twigg 2 April 2012 issue of Total Politics Mark Ferguson interview

“Where I suppose I have a philosophical disagreement with some in the party and on the broader left is that I don’t think it has to be the state that directly provides the schools”. How far would he go with non-state involvement in schools? Would he allow schools to be profit-making? The answer is an emphatic, repeated and reinforced , “No”. …

Yet Twigg is keen to talk up the positive impact of the private sector in education, in particular the JCB Academy in Stoke, which he visited a few weeks ago. He is enthused by that they’re doing. “They’re about improving the quality of practical and vocational education, which for me is a really high priority. If by private we mean closer working between schools and the world of work, that includes private industry, that’s a positive thing, and we should encourage more of it.”

POVERTY, NOT TEACHING, CAUSES EDUCATIONAL FAILURE Mary Bousted, 4 April 2012 (ATL website) ATL General Secretary’s Conference Address

I am going to argue that the Secretary of State for Education, and his ministers, and his handpicked Chief HMI are pulling a con trick. They are seeking to wash their hands, like Pontius Pilate, of all the causes of educational failure over which they, as government ministers, have more control than anyone else. In Michael Gove and Nick Gibb's world it is the school, and only the school, that holds responsibility for the educational outcomes of the poor. If the poor don't make as much progress as the rich, it is the school and the teachers within it who are to blame. This, as you and I know, is a nonsense. It is a lie which conveniently enables ministers to evade responsibility for the effects of their policies.

Let's transcend ministerial rhetoric to look at the evidence. Research evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that here, in the UK, class is a key determining factor in educational attainment. Most studies put its effect as a factor of 10 above any other.

We have, in the UK, schools whose intakes are stratified along class lines. We have schools for the elite; schools for the middle class and schools for the working class. Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another. The effect of unbalanced school intakes is toxic for the poorest and most dispossessed. And whilst teachers and school leaders strain every sinew in these schools to raise aspiration and achievement, they struggle always against the effects of poverty, ill health and deprivation and children in these schools routinely fail to make the educational progress achieved by their more advantaged peers. …

This coalition government's attacks on poor children are a blight upon our conception of ourselves as a civilised society. …

• Consider the fact that this coalition government has cut grant funding to Sure Start Centres by about 22%. 124 centres have closed since it was elected, and the quality of service provision in many others has reduced.

• Consider the fact that this coalition government abolished the education maintenance allowance, slashing support for vulnerable students who cannot afford to attend further education college. And consider that, as a result, the government is paying over a million 16 – 24 year olds to stay at home and rot, rather than learn and develop their skills. Destroying hope and endeavour where it should be strongest. And the results of this destruction will be with us as a society for generations. I tell you, we will pay for the coalition government's shameful neglect of young people.

• Consider that since this coalition government was elected the number of children eligible and claiming free school meals has risen by 110,000 but, at the same time, the ring-fenced funding for school meals has been removed.

• Consider that this coalition government's drastic cuts in local authority grant funding has forced over one fifth of councils in England to axe the supply of library books to primary and secondary schools and threatened the future of 600 public libraries.

• Consider that another result of the slashing of local authority budgets is that, in summer 2011, 29 out of 55 local authority areas analysed, said they were reducing spending in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services. In Lewisham, to give one example, but only one of many, CAMHS are facing cuts of £500,000 this year

• Consider that as a result of this coalition government's tax reforms, two million low- to middle-income families on working tax credit will lose financially.

• Consider that as a result of this coalition government's education reforms, 18% pupils with non-statemented special educational needs will lose out because of the disappearance of School and School Action Plus.

• And consider that public spending on education will fall by 13% in real terms by 2014-15.

And then tell us that we are all in it together.

This is the coalition government's dirty little secret. This is what they have done, to make the lives of poor children, already disadvantaged and demeaned through their poverty, harder. So it makes sense for them to divert attention away from their destructive policies. It makes sense to unleash a torrent of criticism at schools and school leaders and staff who work, every day, not with political rhetoric but with pupils' lives, lives which they strive desperately, and with diminishing state support, to improve.

Of course we need to understand just what the school effect upon educational attainment is, and how it can work most effectively in order to raise attainment for all. We have to do better, particularly for the poorest children who stay stubbornly at the bottom of the ladder of educational achievement. But, and this is a big but, we also need to understand what needs to be done in terms of social justice to give all children a fair start in life and a fair chance to benefit from their education.

OFSTED THE CAUSE OF CRAZY BUREAUCRACY Mary Bousted, 4 April 2012 (ATL website) ATL General Secretary’s Conference Address

OfSTED is the main cause of teacher workload overload. OfSTED is the main cause of crazy bureaucracy which stops teachers and lecturers feeling that they are professionals. OfSTED infantalises the profession. The fear of the OfSTED drives school and college leadership to make ridiculous demands on their staff in order that, when the inspector calls, all the teaching and learning going on in the school can be made totally transparent. As inspectors flit round the school, enjoying their 15 minutes of fame as they terrorise teachers and lecturers in their lessons, they are safe in the knowledge that, should they have any issues about standards of teaching and learning, they can demand to see lesson plans. And what is the result? You know it. Teachers and lecturers slave away documenting their practice rather than thinking about it.


It’s great to be here with Mary and the rest of the team. The ATL has a proud history … You have been and will continue to be a voice of authority; a hand of support; and a champion for excellent teaching …

We all have a duty to celebrate success in education - as well as challenging under-performance where it exists and being uncompromising on standards. It is a widely shared view that we currently have the best-ever generation of teachers. But we cannot rest. Building on these foundations, we have to ensure the next generation of teachers is even stronger if we are to maintain our international competitiveness.

Yet too much of the debate is weighted towards doing down the teaching profession. … There is fantastic practice happening up and down the country. The challenge is to spread this best practice, while giving teachers the freedom to innovate and inspire.

[W]e know that what makes the most difference to the education outcomes for our children is the quality of teaching …. This is what the evidence says and it is evidence that should guide education policy, not ideology and the myths of a golden past….

I have argued and will continue to argue for an evidence-based approach to education….

We know that high quality teaching makes the biggest difference, in terms of education outcomes for all young people. Especially significant is the impact of teaching on pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. We know that the poorest children are concentrated in schools with the highest levels of underperformance. Research from the Royal Society of Arts identified this ‘double disadvantage’ in which the most deprived young people are likely to receive a below par education. The data from their report shows that more affluent pupils tend to attend better schools. By contrast, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are over-represented in ‘Satisfactory’ and ‘Inadequate’ schools. Young people from poorer backgrounds consistently make the least progress in school: the findings from this report demonstrate that the quality of disadvantaged pupils’ schooling contributes to the poor educational outcomes of these (particularly vulnerable) young people.

MB comment: If Steve Twigg had listened to what Mary Bousted said about social class as “a key determining factor in educational attainment” he couldn’t have said this! Nor if he had read the RSA report which he cited, from which I quote these extracts.

The Social Class Gap for Educational Achievement: a review of the literature, Emma Perry and Becky Francis, Royal Society of Arts December 2010)

Although policy makers are increasingly intent upon ‘closing the gap’ in educational achievement, recent strategies that aim to realise this, either by raising aspirations or diversifying the market, are both significantly flawed. There is a need for innovative ideas in order to close the social class gap in education. …

Many recent statistical studies have highlighted that social class is the strongest predictor of educational attainment in Britain. … The yawning gap between the educational achievement of poor children and their more affluent peers remains a complex and seemingly intractable problem. … It tends to be middle-class children within poorer schools that benefit most from school-based initiatives’. …

Researchers writing from [a socio-cultural] perspective have observed that the discourse of ‘raising aspirations’ positions working-class families as fundamentally irresponsible, ‘unmotivated, unambitious and underachieving’. Moreover they have argued that such ‘deficit discourses’ shift attention away from the social structures and institutions that perpetuate economic inequality and contribute to low educational achievement and locate them within the individual themselves. …

There appears to be a need for more nuanced, structural accounts of working-class educational achievement, and further creative interventionsa that seek to genuinely engage with and value the lived experience of working-class families. … There is a need for interventions that depart from the assumptions underpinning the rhetoric of ‘raising aspirations’ and that seek instead to actively include working-class young people, by supporting their agency to exercise more control over their education, and by valuing their lived experiences and identities.


This afternoon Stephen Twigg addressed Conference and made some good points about teachers and their importance at the centre of education. He also said that he would push forward on the guarantee promised by Ed Balls at Conference 2010. He praised the work of teachers and criticised Mr Gove for his denigration. He was however short on how he would put matters right – I fear that Labour will come out with something like we are not hung up on systems we just want all schools to be good and serve their community. … Labour has yet to develop a narrative as to how to run a state-funded education system that is democratically accountable and provides a level playing field for all children.

PROFESSIONAL STATUS ERODED Hélène Mulholland Guardian 8 April 2012

Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary, used her speech to the union's annual conference in Birmingham to unleash a hard-hitting attack against Gove as she vented teachers' anger over a slew of policy initiatives introduced over the past two years that have put unions on a collision course with the government. …

Citing a roll-call of grievances, Keates said teachers' professional status was now being eroded "on all levels", with teachers told "what to teach, how to teach and when to teach, often by those who have not taught for years. They are monitored to destruction by an army of adults and even the children they teach".

She told delegates: "If teachers are to be recruited and retained they need pay levels which recognise and reward them as highly skilled professionals. They need working conditions which enable them to work effectively to raise standards. Savage cuts have been made to education budgets with thousands of jobs lost or at risk. Specialist services on which schools and some of the most vulnerable in our society rely have been reduced or disappeared completely. A four-year pay freeze has been imposed and is set to continue regardless of the state of the economy." Turning to pensions, Keates she said sustainable pensions schemes have been "torn up" and the public fed "a diet of myths and misinformation". The average pension for a teacher was just £10,000, she said.

She added: "The secretary of state sends his apologies but he has insisted that all ministers take a break over Easter. They have all been working really hard. Demolishing state schools really takes it out of you."


Myth 1: ‘Comprehensives have failed’

The legal definition of a comprehensive school is simple – one that serves children of all abilities. …

The numbers of pupils in comprehensive schools has steadily increased since the mid-1960s and in that period standards have risen continuously. Around six times as many pupils get five good GCSEs as did in 1968.

Myth 2: ‘Local authorities run schools’

[The Conservatives] introduced Local Management of Schools in 1988, [which] removed direct financial control from local authorities and decentralised power to heads and governing bodies, who have been able to allocate resources, recruit staff and make decisions about subjects and exams ever since.

Meanwhile, in the same period, central government control has increased spectacularly. Before 1988, the secretary of state had three powers over schools (removal of wartime air raid shelters, managing numbers in teacher training and opening/closing schools). The 1988 Act increased those powers by over 250 and the DfE now has more than 2,000 powers over schools. As Sir Tim Brighouse pointed out in his excellent lecture last year to the Oxford University education department, the losers in this "shift of power downwards and upwards" were the local authorities.

TEACHERS’ CONCERNS: EASTER 2012 Peter Wilby Guardian 9 April 2012

Marilyn Harrop, president of the National Union of Teachers, listed her members' grievances when she opened the union's annual conference on Saturday. "Pressure, more pressure, exam targets, league tables, more pressure, Ofsted, academies, free schools, forced academies, yet more pressure, no pay rise, job losses, bigger classes, fast-track capability procedures, attacks on pension provision, work until you're 68, die at your loom, sorry, desk."

ACADEMY ‘FREEDOMS’ Peter Wilby Guardian 9 April 2012

[W]hat is happening in schools is of national importance. A few days ago, official figures confirmed that the majority of secondary schools – 1,641 out of 3,261 – will have become academies by September. They will be "free" of local authority control and accountable solely to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education. In just two years, Gove has destroyed the foundations of the power structure that governed English education for more than a century. Many of the arguments about academies – of which free schools, studio schools, university technical colleges and other superficially impressive "innovations" are variants – miss this essential truth. Ministers claim academies' greater freedoms, such as the powers to vary the national curriculum, lengthen the school day and determine pupil admission policies, will "drive up" standards. The evidence is thin, to put it mildly. … [I]f freedom is the secret, it is hard to know why it should not be extended to all schools.

In fact … most schools that convert to academy status do so because they get extra cash, which would otherwise be retained by local authorities for central services such as helping pupils with special needs. …

So what is the [Tory] point of academies? …

First, "independent" academies increase the opportunities for commercial involvement in state-funded education. Many schools will use their extra cash to pay private companies to run anything from back-office management to teaching and learning programmes. Ministerial assurances that companies cannot run state-funded schools for profit are mere window-dressing. There is nothing to stop academy trustees from contracting out the operations, in whole or in part, to profit-making firms.

Second, without local authorities to hold the ring, schools will compete more fiercely for able and advantaged pupils who can boost exam scores. Academies will be allowed to expand their intakes even if that undermines neighbouring schools by depriving them of pupils. …

Third, the destruction of local education authorities puts a future education secretary in pole position to achieve a long-held Tory dream: the return of the grammar schools. … Once the majority of secondary schools are academies, a Tory minister can bring back grammar schools without regard to democratic niceties. He or she need only give notice that a school's funding will be cut off if it refuses to introduce selection. … Locally elected representatives would have no say and parents no rights to be consulted. Equally, it should be said, a Labour education secretary could command one or more of the surviving grammar schools in areas such as Kent and Lincolnshire (about half of which have converted to academy status) to cease selection.

That is the big story. Schools are being privatised, but also nationalised, which may sound contradictory but not to a government which, while it believes ideologically in deregulation, wants to stay in control. Power in education was once dispersed, with teachers, parents, local councils and central government all having rights and responsibilities defined by statute. Change required persuasion and negotiation. Gove has ensured that, in future, it will occur by Whitehall diktat.

£337M SPENT ON ‘GOVE’ ACADEMIES AND FREE SCHOOLS Hélène Mulholland Guardian 10 April 2012

The National Union of Teachers has accused the government of wasting money on "vanity projects" after finding that £337m has been spent on the academies and free schools programme in less than two years.

The NUT is strongly opposed to reforms that it says are leading to the privatisation of state education and putting national pay and conditions under threat. It says there is no evidence that academies and free schools will drive up standards, and says some free schools are being set up in areas close to existing high performing schools.

CIVIL SERVANTS FOR FREE SCHOOLS Anti Academies Website. Posted on 13 April 2012

There are 133 civil servants working on ‘free’ schools. This is despite the fact that there are only 24 currently open and 70 scheduled to open in September. This is still more than 1 civil servant per ‘free’ school. Of these 70 half of them have no building. This means thousands of pupils could be without a place in September, and local community schools will have to sort out the problem.


Education select committee report May 2012

This is a sad piece of work as these extracts from the summary show. MB

Para 1. Evidence from the US has suggested that a 'high value-added' teacher can generate significant additional earnings for their students during the course of adult lives, and that poorly-performing teachers can have the opposite effect. This has wider benefits, because of the impact of higher salaries, savings and education on society more broadly.

Oh dear. Surely teaching is not about trying to ‘generate significant additional earnings for their students’. As I’ve written in various places it is about ‘worthwhile living, worthwhile culture, and worthwhile survival’. I thought that the ‘impact of higher salaries … on society’ was a concept in deep trouble with current focus on the salaries, bonuses etc of many top people! MB

Para 11. We recommend that the DfE develop proposals for a pay system which rewards those teachers adding the greatest value to pupil performance.

Why? Many teachers say that their greatest reward is in seeing the flowering of their pupils, of sensing the enlightenment that comes from learning. As so often in our affluence-obsessed society the assumption is that teachers will work harder for higher pay. This completely fails to understand the professional commitment of teachers and what motivates their work. Yet in a later paragraph the Committee are ‘struck’ by it. MB

Para 12. We have been consistently struck by the passion, expertise and skill of the vast majority of practitioners, and by the commitment with which they tackle a vital and often challenging role in society.

So, why interfere? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. MB


Zoe Williams Guardian 3 May 2012

Payment by results and performance-related pay differ structurally but amount to the same thing: the belief that everybody works harder when there's a bonus in it. …

[T]he education committee's ninth report, published last week, suggests that teachers might achieve more if their students' grades were reflected in their pay. What we're looking at, in a variety of forms, is the marketisation of public services. And even though it's already well in progress, shall we just take a second to ask how well it works, before we carry on? The short answer is that it doesn't. …

The flaw is that it doesn't follow that good teaching is engendered by specific financial rewards. It's quite possible that teachers entered the field in the first place because they weren't that interested in competing for money.

In the three days following the publication of this article 441 comments were posted about it on the Guardian site. Seven of these attracted the endorsement of more than 100 readers ticking the ‘recommend’ box. A few examples indicate that Zoe Williams had struck home for many people.

• I am a department head in a large secondary with a reasonable rate of turnover in staff … The scheme is so full of perverse incentives, unintended consequences and general issue nonsense it can only have been dream't up by a committee who have no idea how to run a school, teach a child or manage a national education system. … Its utter nonsense - teaching is a TEAM effort where ALL staff work together to get the best outcomes for ALL children. (349 recommends)

• Thank you for this excellent article. If there are teachers out there who would have the capacity to become better teachers for a few extra quid a month, it's probably a shame they're in the profession anyway. (321 recommends)

• Well said - If ever the phrase 'They know the price of everything and value of nothing' rings true it is with education. I despair. (219 recommends)

• What about the teacher that takes the worst performing, and worst behaving class, which allows the others in the department to focus on getting good results, free from bad behaviour? They're making a very valuable contribution to getting good results for that department. Will this be reflected in their pay? (203 recommends)

• There is no way of objectively measuring a teacher's performance with the variables which exist. Teaching isn't piece work where everyone is doing the same thing. The idea of introducing performance related pay just shows that the people who are considering it don't have a clue what they are on about. (191 recommends)

• Performance-related pay is entirely about controlling teachers and managing the output of educational facilities ... It's a monumental simplification of education and yet another step toward the commodification of all life regardless of the consequences. (169 recommends)

• One of the problems is that decades of poor political leadership in education have reduced the concept of educational achievement (to which performance related pay would be linked) to examination results. If pupils emerge from school generally politer, more concerned for others and with a broad interest in the world around them all that counts for strictly nothing. … The idea of performance related pay, when we have come so close to driving out concern for broad educational values, would reinforce the narrow-minded vision of education that is relayed from ministers down through school management and finally to the teachers. …

The tragedy is that all three main parties are implicated in this process. All of them see education as a means of winning votes and none have a clear analysis of our problems or a general philosophy of education which would enable us to build a system in which all children can go to their local school to receive a high standard of education. … They are all competing to push our school system ever further in the wrong direction. (104 recommends)

On 4 May the Guardian carried several letters. This was the first:

Thank you, Zoe Williams, for seeing that not everything is driven by money. I am now a retired teacher, but I loved teaching. I was paid a reasonable salary and my conditions of service and pension provision were good. However, they were not what motivated my teaching. They are nothing compared to the reward of seeing the light go on in a child’s face as they suddenly “get it”. I know of no teacher that entered and stayed in the profession simply because of the money. If you don’t love teaching, it is simply not tenable as a career. It’s a sad reflection on the mindset of our ministers if they believe that the only thing that drives people is money – but then, of course, that is what drives them.

    Carol Hughes, Stockport, Cheshire


What is ignored in today’s litanies to lost youth is the corrosion of education itself, which is in danger of losing its validity as a way forward for new generations. Unconnected to possibilities for practice, displaying knowledge for evaluation and test-taking has replaced learning. Broken down for quantifiable assessment and behavioural manipulation at one end and cramming for traditional exams at the other, this simulacrum of learning disguises the decline in achievement that all teachers recognise.

Patrick Ainley Letter in Guardian 5 July 2012


In July 2012 the boundary between grades C and D in English GCSE was raised above where it had been in January. As a result thousands of young people failed to get a ‘C’ or above and so had their hopes for higher education dashed.

Joan McVittie, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said:

There is huge anger out there. The whole thing is so unfair on pupils whose lives will be affected by these results.

There was no warning to schools that this would happen. It was moved because of a fear that standards were slipping so that too many young people were gaining good grades. But perhaps good grades were gained because the students had worked hard and were taught well? No one knows, but shouldn’t pass marks be based on achieving success (criterion referencing) rather than on limiting the numbers who succeed (norm referencing)?

What boundaries will be shifted in other subjects next year – and what will be the consequences for your children?


The first that the media or the educational world heard about this was not from a DfE press release but from the Daily Mail! At 10 pm on 15 September, Simon Walters, posted on the Daily Mail’s website this headline. Next morning it was on the front page of the newspaper.



Next day, at 11 pm Saran Harris and Jason Groves reported on the same site:

• 600,000 pupils will start EBaccs in English, maths and science from 2015;

• Exams could take three hours to finish compared with 90 minutes for GCSEs;

• Marks will be awarded for spelling, grammar and punctuation;

• Gove insists exams will remove ‘bite-sized, spoon feeding’ <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Parliament first heard about this on 17 September at 4.13 pm when Michael Gove made a long statement to the House of Commons.

    “With your permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the future of examinations and assessment in our schools. The examination which the overwhelming majority of young people now sit at 16 – the GCSE – was designed with the best of intentions. … We know that the old model – the 80s model – is no longer right for now. We know that record increases in performance at GCSE have not been matched by the same level of improvements in learning – while pass rates have soared we have fallen down international education league tables. … We believe it is time for the race to the bottom to end. We believe it is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. And we believe it is time to raise aspirations and restore rigour to our examinations. … We will invite exam boards to offer wholly new qualifications in the core subject areas of English, mathematics, the sciences, history, geography and languages. … We plan to call these new qualifications – in core academic subjects – English Baccalaureate Certificates. … Success in English, maths, the sciences, a humanities subject and a language will mean that the student has the full English Baccalaurate. We expect that everyone who now sits a GCSE should sit this new qualification. Of course there will be some students who will find it difficult to sit these exams, just as there are some students at the moment who do not sit GCSEs today. We will make special, indeed enhanced, provision for these students with their schools required to produce a detailed record of their achievement in each curriculum area which will help them make progress subsequently. … We propose the first teaching of new certificates in English, maths and the sciences in September 2015 with other subjects following.”

It was a nine minute statement. Stephen Twigg, the shadow secretary of state, replied:

    “I thank the Secretary of State for sending me advance copy of the statement. I appreciated having an hour to consider it, although considerably more advance notice was given to the readers of The Mail on Sunday yesterday. It is deeply disappointing that, one again, the Secretary of State’s plans for GCSEs have been leaked to the press before being presented to Parliament. Head teachers to whom I have spoken to today are angry, and rightly so, that issues affecting the lives and opportunities of their pupils have been drawn up by Ministers in secret and then leaked to selected media outlet without proper Parliamentary scrutiny or consultation with parents, teachers and pupils. … This proposed new system dose not reflect the needs of society and the modern economy. … I suggest that he shelve these proposals and start as genuine consultation. Ahead of today’s announcements, what has he done to consult employers; what has he done to consult education experts; what has he done to consult head teachers?”

The Hansard report is worth reading.

GCSEs are dead: the EBacc is the future, says Michael Gove

James Meike, The Guardian, 17 September 2012

The new English Baccalaureate – the EBacc – will eventually replace GCSEs, doing away with “modules” that allow students to retake parts of their course, cutting back heavily on the use of classroom assessment and coursework, and returning the emphasis to a traditional end-of-year exam.

The name GCSE will disappear, to be replaced with the EBacc, and the traditional grades of A* to C are likely to give way to numeric grades or even percentages. Gove is highly critical of the way around a third of pupils are awarded A to A* GCSE grades. He is keener on numeric grades that could see around 10% of pupils awarded the top grade 1.

The new qualifications are designed to be far more dependent on performance at the end of a two-year course. Far fewer resits will be allowed.

The new English baccalaureate will be made up of individual EBcc exams initially in English, maths and the option of three separate sciences to be taught from September 2015 for examination two years later. Gove wants EBacc courses to be taught from 2016 in history, geography and languages, for examination in 2018.

… Teachers’ leaders claimed it could create a bigger underclass of students who leave school with no qualifications at all. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, “What is being proposed here is blatantly a two-tier system. Pupils who do not gain EBaccs will receive a record of achievement which will most certainly be seen to be of far less worth by employers and colleges.”

This page was added to on 29 October 2012