Education secretary Michael Gove hit the headlines, quite purposefully, today as plans to scrap GCSEs and ‘bring back the O-level’ were leaked to the Daily Mail yesterday.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews made it quite clear Wales would not be following Gove’s lead.
“We certainly won’t be bringing back O-levels. What we want is a qualification system that is easily understood by parents, students and people in business. We will make our own decisions in our own time on the basis of evidence supplied to us.
“I really think the right way to do these things is to review them rigorously and not to make announcements in order to capture newspaper headlines.”
The BBC also reported Andrews’s claims making announcements through newspapers was a “bonkers way of proceeding”.
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Gove’s new plans will see students starting English, Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Biology GCSE courses in 2013 being the last, with subsequent secondary school students being prepared for more traditional exams based on the former O-level model.
The national curriculum, which sets out how secondary school children should be taught, will be abolished and only one exam board with be assigned to each subject, wiping out current practices of competition between exam boards.
Almost as soon as he became education secretary, Gove scrapped the modular element of the GCSE, lessening the opportunities for pupils to retake.
As Chris Cook blogged at the FT this morning, the reversion to O-Levels could impact social mobility and ambition:
“The most significant issues around this idea are related to social mobility: the CSE [the easier alternative to the new O-level proposed by Gove] will tend to be an exam for poorer children.
“This matters: one would expect it to lower aspirations among children put onto the CSE track – which would presumably happen at the age of 14. If a child gets moved onto the scheme who otherwise would be aiming for a C at GCSE, they may just stop trying.“
However, in an urgent question posed by Labour MP Kevin Brennan today, Gove called Cook “a prisoner of low aspiration”.
The education secretary also said:
“The government needs to tackle the culture of low aspiration. Any reform of the examination system would need to ensure that it did not place a cap on aspiration.”
In recent months, Gove’s actions have clearly been led by his nostalgia for the past – the King James bible arrives in schools, plans for Latin to be reintroduced onto the curriculum and now a resurrection of an archaic exam system.
What’s next, a reintroduction of Victorian almshouses?