So just to sum up:
Michael Gove thinks that the GCSE has become dumbed down (which it has) and that having five exam boards competing to see who can offer the easiest papers has resulted in 'a race to the bottom' (which is also true- what else would you expect competition in this area to do?)
He proposes going back to the old system of more rigorous O Levels for the academic kids and more basic CSE exams and presumably vocational courses for the rest. The National Curriculum would be abolished.
Nick Clegg is furious at all this and has been phoning up from his hotel in Rio where he was sent to get rid of him for a bit.
These proposals raise a lot of questions which of course are too difficult for me to answer.
It's an awful lot of upheaval. Teachers have been messed about a great deal in recent years with course changes, constant new initiatives, alterations to the syllabus, new approved methods of teaching and marking, Ofsted etc etc. There would be some disruption for the kids but not too much.
Would the non academic kids really be given the resources to learn useful vocational skills. This isn't going to be cheap, but it is vital.
There would be lots of blather about a 'two tier education system' which of course we have already with private schools, good state schools and bad ones. Fashionable newspaper columnists and people paid to talk on Newsnight would go on and on about 'social mobility' and 'a return to the 1950s'.
Why not just make the GCSE harder (with just one exam board) and bring in serious, respected and properly funded vocational courses as well? If we throw out the prevailing idea that we are somehow all academically equal and everyone must pass whatever exam they sit, then we just might halt the decline in academic standards over the last 25 years and at the same time, produce some employable young adults. (Although I suppose in reality, this is exactly what Michael Gove is actually proposing, but without changing the name of the exams).
At least one Teacher's union general secretary has reportedly described a return to something like 'O' Levels and CSE as a return to a two tier examination system.
That it would be a two tier examination system is undoubtedly true, but the implication is that the GCSE is not a two-tier system. So, can somebody explain what are the 'GCSE Foundation and Higher tiers, if not a two tier system? The clue is probably in the name.
My fear is that this spurrious point has been picked on as the thing most likely to create opposition from parents (who all think their child is destined for greatness and should not be consigned to a lower tier).
This will, of course, completely overshadow all the good intentions, such as closing what are effectively loopholes in the curent system (competing exam boards, repeated retaking of modules etc).
Let's hope we can improve educational standards. Yesterday we cancelled our contract with Scotish Power and received an email in reply which said "customers will be lettered" to confirm the cancellation.
What is the problem with a two tier system? There always will be people whom are of an academic bent and those with a more practical turn of mind. Forcing people into a 'one size fits no one' system is a recipe for disaster. Just what our 'leaders' seem to want.
Phoned = contacted by phone
Emailed = sent an email
Texted = sent a text
So I rather like "lettered". I'd use it if I ever sent letters.
What Gove is saying is that there isn't enough failure in the system and that the value of being in the elite is in danger of being eroded. What is needed is a more effective system of memory dumping, wherein those not expensively coached in the art of the brain fart are properly accorded their place in society. Some at the bottom or the North of England according to the Financial Times, but that might be scaremongering.
It doesn't matter what method, level or board you choose as long as the WORK submitted is the children's own. Reward effort and ability. Encouage and stretch the most academically able. Pat on the head adolescence dumbness whilst giving the opportunity for late maturers. Direct vocational talent to the same cheatingless, devoid-of-punishment-to-the-provider courses. Abolish cheating and the need for it and all will be well.
A return to the 1950's would actually be preferable, as it would bring a lot MORE social mobility than there is at present.
Look at it from my perspective. My Dad went to a grammar school in the 1940s because he was smart, and managed to better his bricklayer Dad by becoming an office worker.
I didn't go to a grammar school, as my borough abolished them when I was 10. I ended up working as a gardener for 10 years before getting the A levels at night school to become a student and finally better myself.
Now I find that my kids can't go to our local grammar schools because they enrol children from practically all of South-west London and Surrey, meaning the competition has upped by about 900%. So we have to pay for their education, otherwise they would have one that is far worse than mine was.
I just can't see what's wrong with every borough providing schools that reflect the abilities of our children. Those who are academic can go to Grammar Schools from 13, those who are more artistic should be allowed to attend Arts Colleges, sporty types should have Sports Colleges for them, and those who have a practical bent should have Technical Schools where they can learn trades and manual skills.
What's so wrong with that?
When it comes to Maths , ability shows at young age. In the days of CSE, O Level and taking exams early, at the end of the 5 th year the range of exams could be A level, Additional O level,O level, CSE and RSA.Unless there is this extent of streaming, one cannot do justice to all abilities.
Student Houses Sheffield
I immediately wanted to say my thanks for the knowledge Michael Gove, Nick Clegg and Education provided here,I have been recently in your blog once or twice now.
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