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That’s a fail, Michael Gove

More exam results this week. More young people biting their nails down to the elbows, waiting for some clever-clogs to tell them they’re actually all pretty dim.

Hot on the heels of A-level results, the GCSEs are out on Thursday and that’s likely to be when the real vitriol gets going – as per usual.

None of it is necessary and certainly none of the bitterness and bile finds any basis in logic. But when did any of that matter?

Already the usual suspects are working up to their annual outbursts of “Exams are too easy” and “Not worth the papers they’re written on” or “Never a patch on O-levels.”

All of which is a matter of opinion and all opinion is valid in one way or another – if only to get complaint off the heaving chests of complainers.

But history has proved this traditional bitching has made not a ha’peth of difference to the exams, their results, the worries of employers and universities about educational standards.

All it has managed to achieve has been the demoralisation of targeted generations of blameless youngsters. And that’s a cheap trick.

It was a Conservative government that made the move to GCSE from O-level and it’s a Conservative Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who now wants to reverse it.

That’s okay. There’s a lot to be said for realising an error of judgement and wanting to make amends. But where do the kids fit in to all this batting back and forth?

Getting rid of O levels was, Mr Gove says, an “historic mistake” by his party – one that led to falling, if not crumbling, education standards and the introduction of too many “Mickey Mouse” courses that could be tackled module by module, piece by piece.

Under his latest proposals, from 2016 pupils in England will once again face O levels, exams described as “explicitly harder” designed to set a single “gold standard” test.

Less able pupils will sit exams similar to the old CSEs.

There are problems with that plan. And they’ll be collecting their results on Thursday.

Playing political games with education is like playing board games with the National Health Service.

It can’t be done without the most vulnerable suffering undeservedly.

Suppose the harder, more sophisticated standards are introduced in four years time. How will those who took and passed exams before their introduction be judged against the new qualifications – when, for instance, they are side by side at interview for a job?

It was never any exam candidate’s fault that others fiddling with the system landed him or her with an easier test, designed to hit false targets and create meaningless league tables.

Youngsters taking GCSE exams, complete the courses they are taught, take the tests they are set and accept the results they are allowed – however corrupt the system.

Are they now to be offered up as sacrificial lambs in a moralistic political game to spruce up what politicians admit to having dumbed down in the first place.

It’s beginning to look that way.

Have your say

If this country is to survive and prosper we have got to improve the education standards of our children, reducing standards is doing no one any favours.Telling children that they are good at something when clearly they are not is perverse.

Posted by Michael Owen on 29 August 2012 at 13:01

Education has been a political football for both parties. They have been keen to praise grade inflation when it suited them and felt free to condemn educational standards in the same breath. The sad thing about this latest fiasco is that those in charge were ignorant of the exam format and marked the same exam in January and June to two different standards. It may have suited Gove to be seen as tough on inflation, something Osborne has failed at, but he has been unfair to those students who had their papers marked in June. Its all very well teachers having to make silk purses but they will need both ears to match.

Posted by chuck on 25 August 2012 at 15:57

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