Gove’s got a little list (Part One)

Janet Downs's picture
In the spat between Education Secretary Michael Gove and his Opposition shadow Stephen Twigg, Gove compiled a list outlining his mighty works.

Here are a few (with comments in brackets):

The Government has:

Opened 81 free schools and approved 211 more, to provide 130,000 extra places once they are full. (But some are in areas where there are already surplus places. Many are secondary schools but it’s primary places that are needed. Some free schools were already open as independent schools.)

Increased the number of sponsored academies from 203 to 699. (Some, like Downhills, have been by force. And the Academies Commission expressed concern that some academy chains are growing too fast and some have no coherent plan for school improvement.)

Allowed all schools to convert to Academy status – an option 2,225 schools have taken so far, so that a majority of secondary schools are now academies. (They did it for the money. Some jumped before they were pushed.)

Opened 16 Studio Schools and approved 28 more. (True, but it’s to be hoped that they’ll last longer than Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio Academy, acclaimed as “the country’s first studio school” when it opened in September 2010. 13% of the 2012 GCSE cohort gained the benchmark of 5+ GCSEs A*-C. BBESA closed in December 2012 and reopened the next day as Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio, a University Technology College.)

Drafted a new National Curriculum that will be taught in schools from September 2014. (This has been fiercely criticized. The history curriculum has had to be rewritten and is waiting the PM’s seal of approval. And academies and free schools don’t have to follow it.)

Given all schools freedom over the length of the school day. (Schools were always able to change the timing of the school day as long as they consulted first. And not all parents are pleased when a school decides to add extra hours.)

Set out plans for more rigorous GCSEs that will be taught from September 2015. (Changing exams at 16 instead of moving graduation to 18 is out-of-step with most developed countries where the main exams are taken at 18. In these countries, assessment at 16 usually decides upper secondary progress and doesn’t comprise high-stakes tests.)

• Introduced the English Baccalaureate which has led to a doubling in the percentage of pupils studying an academic core at GCSE. (EBacc was introduced without consultation as a performance measure and applied retrospectively to exams taken in 2010. 22% of pupils had entered EBacc subjects in that year and 16% achieved them. In 2011, 23.8% were entered and 17.6% achieved the Ebacc. In 2012, 25% entered all of the subject areas of the EBacc and 18.1% passed every subject area with grade A* to C. Of course, Gove referred to “pupils studying an academic core” which isn’t the same as entering Ebacc exams. But the rise in Ebacc entries and Ebacc passes from 2010 to 2012 does not equal “doubling”.)

So Gove’s rhetoric isn’t quite such an achievement when compared with reality.

Part Two (and maybe even Part Three) will be posted eventually.

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