Having spoken to a number of teachers, pupils and parents now, I've noticed that most of them are very troubled by the way Michael Gove has undermined the work that is currently going on in schools. He is without precedent as an Education Secretary; he says things which are guaranteed to demoralise and demotivate. Apparently, GCSEs are simply about a "race to the bottom" and have no "credibility" and yet teachers like me have to teach these qualifications for years to come; students have to work hard to get the top grades; parents have to support their children to do well; millions is spent on marking and setting them up. My pupils are very worried that GCSEs will not be regarded as serious qualifications. "What if we work really hard and get good marks, only to be told that they don't count? That we need to take another exam?" one anxious Sixth Former told me.
Perhaps more worryingly, some parents seem to have got the idea that the system is so broken that they can "brutalise" a higher grade out of their school by shouting at the examinations officer, quoting Michael Gove chapter and verse, and saying, "Well, if the system's broken, why can't my child get the highest mark possible? I mean, the whole thing's a fiction anyway so we might as well get the top mark." It's not great logic but that's the mood at the moment; the Education Secretary has created a national mood where the bullies, cheats and charlatans think they can rule. The contradictions and idiocies of Gove have filtered down to the ground and are being uttered by anyone who is disgruntled.
As a parent and a teacher, I'm extremely worried. My son may well take the last GCSEs -- where will that leave him, toiling away for a qualification that has been declared useless? I have to teach GCSEs for the coming years; where does that leave me and my classes? Like every other teacher, we're expected to slog our guts out so that our pupils can get "dumbed down" qualifications which have no "credibility". It's quite weird thinking that the man in charge of the whole system thinks that as you are teaching GCSE English to your pupils. Gove brought a truly nihilistic spirit to the profession. I have a sinking sensation in my stomach when I think about the next few years with him in charge because the truth is he's essentially washed his hands of the current framework for assessment that exists in schools. Instead of dealing with the situation by creating a consensus for change, he's alienated just about everyone -- except Toby Young.
How has this man managed to cause such chaos and trauma? Does he have any idea of what he is doing? Why does he so rarely heed the voices of teachers, parents or respected academics? It appears that his latest proposals for reform to the exam system were done without the consultation of teachers, the very people who will be expected to teach the syllabi! How can he be allowed to get away with this?