The Education Secretary’s roll call of reforms given to Stephen Twigg continues below (comments are in brackets).
The Government has:
• Scrapped excessive modules, coursework and controlled assessment
. (Yes, it’s end-of-course, sudden death exams for our 16 year-olds when most developed countries have graduation at 18. Only 15 out of 34 OECD countries have national exams set locally or by the state at 16. These usually cover just maths and national language*. Three extra subjects, science, modern foreign languages and social studies are included to a lesser extent. Compare that with the ten or more exams taken at age 16 by most of our young people. And pupils like coursework. The Wellcome Trust report, Young People’s Perception of Science,
wrote “Young people indicated that more continuous assessment and feedback would encourage engagement and subsequently learning.” Mr Gove – please take note of the views of future voters.)
• Ensured all young people who fail to get a C in English or Maths GCSE carry on studying those subjects to 18
. (But Gove has removed the obligation on employers to let Local Authorities know if they’re hiring 16 and 17 year-olds. This means that these young people could fall through the net.)
• Introduced a £2.5 billion pupil premium to target funding at those most in need
. (That’s a step in the right direction. But why are non-academies not allowed to prioritise pupils who attract the pupil premium? Academies and free schools can
if their Funding Agreement says so. It’s unclear why the Government discriminates between schools
in this way. The ability to prioritise such pupils should be given to all schools.)
• Scrapped eight education quangos
. (The offices may have been closed but much of the work has been shifted elsewhere. For example, the Education Funding Agency does work previously undertaken by the Young People’s Learning Agency. The new Teaching Agency
took over some functions carried out by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, General Teaching Council for England, Children’s Workforce Development Council and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. The Schools Food Trust
still exists but is now a charity called the Children's Food Trust. Partnerships for Schools may have been closed but much of its work is now done by Cornerstone, a social investment company set up by Tim Byles
, the ex-Chief Executive of PfS.)
• Cut bureaucratic guidance to schools by three quarters
. (The Academies Commission
cited a National Audit Office survey in 2012 which found 47% of academies felt less free from red tape than they had expected before conversion. Perhaps the Government should have done more to warn them about the administrative and financial responsibilities of running a company and a charity.)
· Announced that, from this September, rigid pay-scales, which led to automatic pay rises regardless of performance and prevented heads from rewarding great teachers, will be abolished.
(There is little evidence that performance-related pay improves the quality of teaching**.)
Again, the Coalition's programme of reforms isn't quite so positive as Gove would have us believe.
*See faq above: What are the examination and assessment systems in OECD countries?
**See faq above: Would Performance-Related Pay improve educational outcomes?