At their Easter conferences in 2013, four teacher unions expressed an unprecedented level of agreement. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the NASUWT, and the National Association of Head Teachers separately voted ‘No Confidence’ in Secretary of State Michael Gove.
While one of the teachers' concerns was Mr Gove’s intention to dismantle the national pay structure with changes in how teachers are paid and in cutting back their pensions, an equal concern was that many of his policies will damage the life chances of the nation's children. As the proposer of the NAHT motion of ‘no confidence’ said:
Michael Gove’s response in a speech to head teachers was:
So, what are these education policies that will “fail our children” - and are the unions and others right to challenge them?
NOTE Although Michael Gove left the Department of Education in July 2014 his policies continue to unfold. Hence the following tweets are (unfortunately) still relevant.
ACADEMIES – CHANGING GOVERNANCE OF SCHOOLS
#Govepolicyacademies Local community governing bodies replaced by business or charity executives, or by academy-chain companies
#Govepolicyacademies Why academies? Gove believes governance change will improve schools with freedom from local authority rules
#Govepolicyacademies Why academies? Can set pay & conditions for staff, term & school day length, & decide curriculum
#Govepolicyacademies Why academies? Do not need to follow the national curriculum (but same tests, exams and Ofsted)
#Govepolicyacademies Why become an academy? Prestige for school. Parents impressed. More applicants likely – so more income.
#Govepolicyacademies Labour set up 203 academies to improve weak schools. Gove has set up 2683 academies.
#Govepolicyacademies Critic says “new academies include the willing, the pressured, & the forced” (sometimes strong opposition)
#Govepolicyacademies Critics say academies a step towards privatisation and commercial profit and that this is Gove’s ambition
#Govepolicyacademies Academies decide admissions and exclusions in place of local authorities. National rules but evidence of unfairness …
#Govepolicyacademies Critics say academy covert practices can achieve performance targets that affect school income & climb league tables
#Govepolicyacademies Royal Society of Arts report Jan 2013 “Academy status alone is not a panacea for improvement”
#Govepolicyacademies Machin & Silva research March 2013 Academies of 2002-7 improved GCSE results for able students but not for less able
#Govepolicyacademies Machin & Silva research March 2013 Academies of 2008-9 little evidence of beneficial results for any students
MB comment. Good schools grow not overnight from outside influence, but from the patient inside efforts of students, teachers, head, governors, parents and local community working together. Changing governance is not the answer, nor taking schools away from local influences. Abolishing performance targets and league tables would help.
CHANGING NATIONAL CURRICULUM FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS
In February 2013 Mr Gove’s department published for consultation a new national curriculum. There were few revisions when the final version was published in July 2013. In particular History was rewritten and English extended by adding oracy. Criticism was widespread but largely ignored.
#GovepolicyNC ATL, NUT & NASUWT Curriculum will inhibit progress for many children & label others as failures. Unrealistic expectations
#GovepolicyNC ATL, NUT & NASUWT Lack of relevance to primaaged children in the 21st C. Will not adequately prepare them for the future
#GovepolicyNC 100 academics: “Endless lists spellings, facts & rules. Will not develop children’s ability to think. Lead to rote learning”
#GovepolicyNC Draft primary curriculum: English 74 pages; maths 14 pages, science 8 pages, RE 45 pages, 8 other subjects 41 pages
#GovepolicyNC Maths curriculum: Assoc Teachers Maths “age-inappropriate expectations … failure labelling … Appendix 1 complete travesty”
#GovepolicyNC DfE: Academies do not need to follow the national curriculum.
MB comment. The focus on subjects in the National Curriculum discounts the wider purposes of primary schools. It is grossly overloaded with content. It asks too much of many five and six year-olds. By contrast see the elegant simplicity of “A Charter for Primary Education” – written by teachers on one page of A4 that sets out clearly what primary schools should be about. #link_2441087
Some critics believe Michael Gove’s curriculum is deliberately over-demanding either in order to persuade more schools to become academies, or to cause Ofsted to fail them and so become ‘forced’ academies. A step towards privatisation?
CHANGING GCSE SYLLABUSES AND EXAMINATIONS
n 2012 Michael Gove told Parliament (after telling the Mail on Sunday) that GCSEs would be replaced by baccalaureate examinations. In the face of widespread criticism he retracted, but in June 2013 came up with a new version of the same idea but retaining the name of GCSE. Changes initially in nine core GCSE subjects: English, English Literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, combined science, history and geography with content ‘more rigorous’; assessment will be by essay-based end-of-the-course exams with coursework and controlled assessments abolished; the pass mark levels will be raised; grading will be by numbers 8-1 in place of the current A*-G.
#GovepolicyGCSE Gove to HofC “The new specifications are more challenging, more ambitious & more rigorous … higher level of demand”
#GovepolicyGCSE Gove to HoC “We can raise the bar confidently … to help students to achieve more than ever before”
#GovepolicyGCSE Mary Bousted Gen Sec ATL “Serious concerns that new GCSE will particularly disadvantage children with difficult home lives”
#GovepolicyGCSE Mary Bousted Gen Sec ATL “End of course exams on one day test recall & memory rather than range of skills needed in 21stC”
#GovepolicyGCSE Brian Lightman Gen Sec ASCL “Ministers should introduce policies based on research evidence rather than their own beliefs”
#GovepolicyGCSE Oxford Univ Centre for Educ Assessment "Raising level of examinations will not in itself raise standards of achievement"
MB comments. Raising the bar may help the more able to achieve more but it will not help the less able to achieve pass grades and makes a mockery of Mr Gove’s expressed concern “to liberate our poorest children from the shadow of ignorance and the chains of dependency” (which was his stated ambition when he came into office).
Raising the bar will be likely to push some schools below the DfE’s ‘floor standard’ and so lead to forced academisation.
CHANGING A-LEVEL SYLLABUSES AND EXAMINATIONS
OFQUAL, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, prompted by the then secretary of state for Education Michael Gove, and its own research, is introducing sweeping changes to A-levels.
#GovepolicyA-lvl Gove to Ofqual: “Aspiration for new A levels to be rigorous qualifications with enhanced reputation & better preparation for HE”
#GovepolicyA-lvl AS will be ‘de-coupled’ from A-level and be just ‘stand alone’ qualifications
#GovepolicyA-lvl A-levels will be assessed purely by end-of-the-course examinations
#GovepolicyA-lvl Content and assessment scrutiny for each A-level subject with an expectation that higher standards will develop
#GovepolicyA-lvl Elite universities of the Russell group to support development of higher standards
#GovepolicyA-lvl Gove to Nat Coll Teaching and Leadership: “I am deliberately setting higher standards for our state school system every year”
#GovepolicyA-lvl Chris Keates Gen Sec NASUWT "Other than grumblings of a few unrepresentative academics, there is no clamour for reform”
#GovepolicyA-lvl Brian Lightman Gen Sec ASCL "This is a classic case of fixing something that isn't broken"
#GovepolicyA-lvl Independent schools H&H “Driven by timetable based on electoral politics rather than principles of sound implementation"
#GovepolicyA-lvl Neil Carberry of CBI "Businesses want more rigorous exams but we're concerned - we need a more coherent overall system"
MB comment. Since the age for completing education is being raised to 18 why not re-plan the overall educational provision for 14 to 18 year olds, involving everyone concerned, and drawing, for example, on the careful research-based proposals of the Nuffield Foundation study "Education for All" and Professor Richard Pring’s related book "The Life and Death of Secondary Education for All".
Pring poses the fundamental question “What counts as an educated person in this day and age?’ The answer must certainly be very much broader than in terms of examination grades, reformed or otherwise.
Since the Finnish education system is recognised by Mr Gove as the most successful in the western world why not follow its example and have just one external set of examinations at the point of leaving secondary education?
CHANGING THE WAY ASSESSMENTS ARE REPORTED
For reasons that are not obvious, but will cause endless confusion, Mr Gove changed the way assessments are recorded.
#Govemarks National Curriculum levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, used by all primary schools, will be replaced by test scores in deciles
#Govemarks GCSE grades A* A B C D E F and G, recognised by students, teachers, parents, employers, will be replaced by grades 8 down to 1
It is not clear whether he intends the same grade system for A-levels.
CHANGING THE WAYS IN WHICH TEACHERS ARE TRAINED
Mr Gove frequently claimed that ‘we have the best generation of teachers ever’ but then seemed to be closing down the way in which most of them were trained.
#Goveteachertraining Gove: Neither academies nor free schools have to have teachers trained to Qualified Teacher Status standard.
#Goveteachertraining Gove “By the end of this parliament, over half of all training places will be delivered by schools” (School Direct)
#Goveteachertraining Ofsted 2011 says “proportionately less outstanding provision” in School Direct training than in university courses
#Goveteachertraining School Direct given by DfE 9,000 training places from universities but by July 2013 only 5,000 taken up
#Goveteachertraining P Tatlow Chief Exec Million+ “School Direct introduced without robust assessment of impact on teacher supply”
#Goveteachertraining P Tatlow added “Universities with high quality teacher training are side-lined with no guarantee of training numbers”
#Goveteachertraining J Noble-Rogers Exec Dir UCET “Could create a perfect storm” in which universities might drop teacher training.
#Goveteachertraining Tim Brighouse “To leave the training of teachers to the market with no attempt to plan places is dereliction of duty”
MB comment. While Mr Gove’s changes in governance, curricula and qualifications described here may have serious implications for the future of our children this one, potentially destroying the role of university departments of education in training teachers, will be catastrophic. It is not clear that his successor in office, Nicky Morgan, has recognised this.
LINKS TO OTHER TWEETS
Tweets One: THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR SCHOOLS #content_42240406
Tweets Two: EDUCATION UNOTADICE NOTACUIDE #content_42240457
Tweets Three: THE POLITICAL CORROSION OF EDUCATION #content_42240699
Tweets Four: EDUCATIONAL IDEOLOGY OF MICHAEL GOVE #content_42240751
Tweets Six: IF … BUT SINCE NOT … TIME TO GO! #content_42241478
This page was posted on 3 August 2013 and modified on 17 November 2014