With power comes responsibility Mr Gove

At the recent Sunday Times Festival of Education Michael Gove declared that he loved teachers. Mr Gove’s profession of affection however is somewhat at variance with events unfolding in the world of qualifications – change which arguably is hugely challenging (and not in a good way) to teachers trying to support their students.

1. IGCSE : early in the life of the coalition Gove decided that the International GCSE would be accredited by the Department for Education in their performance data. A number of state schools have adopted IGCSEs across a range of subjects enjoying an opportunity previously only available to independent schools. Indeed this very fact was a badge of honour for Gove. However, I understand from colleagues in maintained schools that there is a strong possibility, with the advent of new GCSEs, that IGCSE will no longer be accredited to ensure there is leverage for maintained schools to offer the new GCSE. Question. Schools offering the IGCSE are clearly happy with the qualification yet they are effectively being coerced into offering the new untested qualification – why? Answer. Gove is determined to mastermind a portfolio of GCSEs which he believes are rigorous and drive up standards – yet it is not clear why IGCSEs no longer fit the bill. I hesitate to suggest that Gove clearly has a political agenda but this does seem a likely reason.
2. Ofqual : is it only me who finds it odd that Ofqual has written to every school and college to warn of the possibility of variability of GCSE and A Level results this summer? Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief regulator, said : “When qualifications change we would expect individual school results to be more variable, because the changes will have different impacts in different schools and in different subjects. It is not possible to predict at this stage how the national picture will look: these changes do not pull results universally in one direction or another, but together they are likely to affect the national picture to some extent.” A.K.A. not sure what will happen with the results but at least we have warned you. Question. So A Level students, you are sitting on offers which are based on previous experience but your experience could be different. Answer. Really?
3. A Level reform : the changes proposed by Gove mean that there will be a two year period when there will be a mixed economy of A Levels – modular v. linear. There is every possibility that universities will decide to extend the current system of testing to cut through the confusion of this mixed economy. Question. How does this help the widening participation agenda? Answer. It potentially creates another barrier for students in the maintained sector who have another hurdle to climb.

So teachers have little reason to feel loved by Mr Gove. The changes to the qualification framework have a myriad of unintended consequences. Which is a timely reminder that with power comes responsibility Mr Gove.

1 thought on “With power comes responsibility Mr Gove

  1. Peter Monteath

    A very thoughtful article, Tricia. I’m Regional Director, UK, with Cambridge International Examinations – the exam board that created the IGCSE. Since Cambridge IGCSE was funded by the Government for teaching in 2010, we have seen it grow significantly in popularity. It is now taken by over 2500 UK schools.

    We therefore welcome your comments on this important issue. Cambridge IGCSE is valued by teachers and students across the country – indeed many of the features of the new reformed GCSEs for use in England from 2017 are modelled on features of Cambridge IGCSEs.

    We’ve had ongoing discussions with the DfE and Ofqual to ensure that Cambridge IGCSE continues to be reported in England’s performance tables from 2017. These discussions have been constructive and we believe there are no technical reasons why our IGCSEs shouldn’t continue to be reported.

    You are right to stress that IGCSE has been supported by Mr Gove who as recently as February restated, “Instead of reinforcing the Berlin Wall between state and private [schools], we should break it down.”

    We welcomed Mr Gove’s decision to open up choice for schools and trust that, in the interest of teachers and learners, he will maintain this position as DfE moves towards its final decision.


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