Gove europeanises GCSEs
His Grace likes Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, and is broadly in agreement with his proposed reforms to GCSEs for all the stated reasons (which His Grace will not repeat here, for he really can't be bothered).
But two aspects of yesterday's announcement are rather irksome. Firstly, to move away from historic English 'levels' ('O' or 'A') toward a Baccalaureate is to adopt a decidedly European, if not especially French term for the new English qualification. 'Baccalaureate' comes from baccalauréat or baccalauratus, and is the term used in many international schools to refer to the qualification which precedes higher education (ie A-level): it marks the successful end of secondary education. It is confusing to adopt the term for education which finishes at 16, and puzzling further that it may be divided into individual EBacc certificates, which separately will not constitute the English Baccalaureate, but will still be termed Baccalaureate certificates.
So are the Secretary of State for Education and the Deputy Prime Minister, at least on a point of grammar. For in their jointly-written justficatory article for yesterday's Evening Standard, they said:
And both of us agree there is much more to do. Structures developed in the past and attitudes that have grown out of introspective debates need to be challenged. Policy-makers have tended to waste time arguing about when we should select students for particular paths in life instead of giving every child the tools to choose for themself.His Grace is rather shocked that such a howling offence against English grammar could have got past two Oxbridge graduates and their SpAds, not to mention the sub-editor at the Standard. And this, from the Department for Education, which is about to tighten the 'good grammar' requirements with the EBacc which certainly used to exist for O-levels but which became incrementally otiose for many GCSEs (not to mention the teachers).
But even this ignorance is not as bad as the confusion which reigns on the Labour benches. Stephen Twigg opposes reforms to the examinations system, even though something obviously needs doing to combat the grade inflation, declining rigour and stalled social mobility that characterised their time in government.
When Labour were in power, the percentage of GCSEs graded A*-C soared from 54 per cent to 69 per cent. But these results were not matched in international league tables, as 15-year-olds in England fell down the rankings from 7th to 25th in reading, 8th to 27th in maths, and 4th to 16th in science.
Despite all the evidence showing that GCSEs have become discredited, the Shadow Education Secretary said the Government should ‘shelve’ its proposals.
Michael Gove said of Stephen Twigg: "The Honourable Gentleman was faced with his own test today. He was faced with an opportunity to embrace reform that this side of the House has outlined and he flunked that test. There will be an opportunity for the Honourable Gentleman to re-sit this test. There will be an opportunity during the consultation that we have for him to rethink his blind opposition to this progress.
"I hope that we can count on him to reflect on the decision that he took today and decide that he will join this side of the House in delivering better, more rigorous and more inclusive qualifications."
Alas, this will never be forthcoming from Stephen Twigg, who must be one of the most ill-reasoned, ineffectual and inconsistent shadow education secretaries of modern times.