We are all very worried that Gove has undermined the credibility of the current system; where does it leave us for the next few years?

Francis Gilbert's picture
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?
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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 18/09/2012 - 16:50

Unfortunately, Gove can get away with it because he's cheered on by the ill-informed and misguided: politicians who play to the gallery, reporters who regurgitate press releases from the DfE and don't do their proper job of investigating the evidence behind the hype, self-publicists who think they'll get kudos (or gongs) from supporting Gove's policies (what was that he said in the Commons about how "enlightened" heads supported his exam proposals?), sections of the media who plug away at the "plummetting down league tables - English education is the worst in the world" propaganda because they think it sells papers...

Gove has done immeasurable harm to pupils who will still be taking GCSEs - he has told them the exam they study hard for is rubbish, "dumbed-down", not fit for purpose. He has made the job of teachers impossible because they are expected to prepare pupils for these exams.

This makes me angry - very angry.

Alison Livesey's picture
Tue, 18/09/2012 - 17:36

I have two daughters still in secondary education year 10 and year 8 and I wonder why they should work hard for their GCSEs? I am not a teacher but I am concerned that they get the best education, the best results they can so that they can realise their dreams. The lack of understanding about young people and their lives is breathtaking but I am sorry to say not surprising.

I agree with you Janet about the media parrotting the Gove mantras about the broken system and sliding down the international league tables. people do not challenge him on this and I don't understand why he gets away with it. Even the introduction of the consultation paper starts in this way. I think it is appalling.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 18/09/2012 - 19:06

Make no mistake. The current bunch of Tories are the most right wing government to have held power in living memory. Under Cameron’s guise of bonhomie lurks an anti-state dogma that is hell bent on firmly drawing a line separating the advantaged from the disadvantaged in ways that Margaret Thatcher never dared advance. The Big Society, with its hollow ring of everyone mucking in together during hard times under the warm glow of national pride and union exemplified by the Olympics, is a sham when Cameron and his henchmen amputate the NHS, drive hundreds of thousands into poverty and throw more onto the dole queue whilst the most affluent are untouched by austerity and keep the tills ringing at Michelin starred restaurants and LVMH.

This grotesque widening of the income gap makes the UK one of the most unequal in the West, so it really should be no surprise that this deliberate and brutal segregation should be formally embedded in schools, with the news of Gove’s Ebacc. Whole generations of children will now learn only of the value of conforming to right wing ideology, that only the prescribed academic route shall count as qualifications, affirmation, success, with everything else, any other talent or contribution being rendered useless or irrelevant. Musicians and actors will have no talent or genius, just entertainers hired to amuse and entertain. Art and design will have little recognition, rendered second rate to the more important task of memorising years of work to be spewed out in one three hour exam to placate employers and higher education selectors who clearly have had no imagination for the past 20 years when selecting candidates because an absolute statistic of achievement hasn’t been placed next to their names.

One of the most laughable aspects of Michael Gove’s utter stupidity is his claim that his reforms are “radical”. What is radical and forward looking in plunging the exams system back to the 60s and 70s? Why is this man so obssessed with nostalgia? Does he think a two tier system of education that will punish the disadvantaged will return England to its glory days of Empire? Has history not taught him that division leads to revolution – in France, Russia, China? Or is he just focused on making sure that he make his mark in the history books, even as just a footnote as the most chaotic and deluded Secretary for Education in history?

This government has blindsided the public on all the major issues – the NHS, the economy, education. None of these schools “reforms” were in the mandate. None of this was in the coalition agreement, so its another example of Clegg and the Lib Dems colluding with the Tories to sell their supporters down the river. At a time of squeezed budgets and austerity, is it necessary to fast track and implement the rewriting of syllabi, curricula, textbooks? Is this really the best way to spend money we don’t have? Well yes – because this government will spend when it suits them to re-establish the pre-1960s model of social segregation and deference to wealth and advantage.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 19/09/2012 - 14:18

“Most pressing for a generation of children and their parents is that there seems to be no thought for the potentially lost cohort of young people who will continue to take the existing GCSE up until 2017, an exam now so traduced by Gove that employers and universities will have difficulty in taking it seriously.” John Bangs, honorary visiting fellow at Cambridge University, writing in the Guardian.


If Gove were Defence minister, he'd no doubt regard these pupils as "collateral damage."

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