Gove needs to carry school leaders with him, says CBI chief

Janet Downs's picture
“Whitehall may think it’s playing the right music, [but] too few people are hitting the dance floor,” wrote CBI chief, John Cridland, in the Guardian.

Cridland said the education system should not be a barrier to great teaching but must support it. He acknowledges that the system being proposed from Government is not playing well with schools leaders. Those who heckled Education Secretary, Michael Gove, at the recent NAHT were not “union firebrands", Cridland said. And Gove needs to carry school leaders with him.

The CBI chief welcomed some recent moves: slowing down “rushed age 16 exam reforms”; looking again at the draft D&T curriculum, focusing on developing “high quality vocational education” and changing performance measures to reflect each individual child’s performance.

But he warned that policy was changing rapidly on many different fronts and there was something lacking: a common thread which unites all these changes.

Cridland suggested three areas which needed to be addressed quickly:

Standards and accountability

High standards and expectations were important but education is “more than rigour”. The “exam treadmill” should be streamlined: “fewer but tougher tests in more relevant subjects”. This would free up time for schools to focus on “broader education”. And accountability systems need to keep pace.

“Exams are essential but are not sufficient in creating a great education system”.

Ofsted should become a “guarantor” and publish reports which position exam results in “a broader narrative”.  This would place achievement within the broader education framework.

The Curriculum

Achievement should be targeted at age 18. Cridland suggested a “refreshed, single curriculum from age 14 onwards” with differentiated pathways.

“Gold standard vocational A-levels” should be developed.

All pupils should have individual learning plans (ILPs) which map both academic and personal development.

Careers guidance

Schools were struggling with this (see thread here on this issue). Cridland feared Ministers didn’t appear to be prioritising it. He worried that the forthcoming impact assessment would reveal a negative picture. If it did then urgent action would be required. The Government, he said, “cannot now step back completely on careers advice”. Heads needed to be given “a clear steer” about this crucial issue.

Author’s comments:

It seems that John Cridland and I will hit the dance floor together. We agree about how education is more than just exams; graduation at 18; establishing parity between high-quality vocational qualifications and academic ones; the use of formative assessment via ILPs; an accountability system which recognises “broader education” and, crucially, raising the profile of those neglected subjects: careers education and impartial, accurate careers advice.

There’s just one area where the CBI chief and I are out-of-step. Cridland suggests an overhaul of the curriculum from age 14-19. But in most of the developed world upper secondary education begins at 16, not 14, and comprises two years not four. All pupils in these countries study a broad curriculum up to the end of lower secondary – that is, age 16.

The question is, however, how far is Michael Gove matching his music to our dance?

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