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Once again Education Secretary Gove has been forced into a climbdown over educational reforms and yet the juggernaut of educational change will require a determined effort by the education unions if it is to be stopped.
Back in Sept 2012 Gove decided to force through new exams supposedly to raise standards through the Ebacc qualification which demanded achievement in core subjects. Almost certainly the underlying idea, not highlighted in the press, was to reintroduce a two-tier system, not far removed from the old grammar system – what should be known as the secondary modern system. There was an outcry from schools, unions, business leaders, the qualifications regulator and then even the Conservative-led Education Select Committee.
Then in February the Education Secretary unexpectedly revealed that art, music and drama GCSEs were to be placed on the same level as core academic subjects telling the House of Commons, “I’m happy to acknowledge that I made an error. I think it best to retreat.” Various other changes were scrapped, in history and geography.
Now it appears that implementation will be delayed because of concerns by the exams watchdog, Ofqual, who don’t believe that revamped exams can possibly be ready on time.
However, while this is all to the good, curriculum reform should not be in the hands of politicians. The teachers are the professionals. They have too long been hamstrung by government interference, over-testing, league tables and Ofsted. In some high-performing countries such as Finland, teachers are fully in control and children, who start formal education at six, having focused on play in early years, are taught in a fully comprehensive system run by unionised, autonomous staff. There are no high stake tests.
See our Vision for Education for a fuller idea on how education should be run. Comments welcome.