It's been hard this week to get behind the barriers to understanding and find out what the Gove proposals really are.
What were these barriers?
First, we have a Prime Minister whose only real job was in PR and a Secretary of State for Education who seems to think he’s still a NewsCorp reporter. Gove's use of slogans, loaded language and misleading inferences is clearly aimed at the Right of his own party, not at those of us who will be trying to make his proposals work for the benefit of all the young people we teach.
Second, the incompetence of newspaper 'education correspondents', even on the broadsheets, basing what they write on their own pre-judgements rather than reading the stuff.
So here is my summary of the DFE Consultation document
A new qualification to be called the "English Baccalaureate Certificate" (EBC) to (gradually?)
- 'Success' in the EBC Core subjects (English, Maths, Science (2), History or Geography, Modern Forgein Languages) qualifies a student for the English Baccalaureate
- Start in 2015 in English, Maths and Science. Other subjects to follow (- not necessarily in 2016).
(So students will take the deliberately rubbished GCSE qualification for 4, 5 or more years. In History, that is over a million students.)
- EBC to be 100% assessed by final external exam.
- No controlled assessment, no fieldwork in Geography or History.
- [No tiered papers][No Combined Science].
- Each of the five English Baccalaureate subjects to be examined by a single exam board, which will bid for the 5-year contract. Can offer a 'suite' of syllabuses in a subject.
- Boards will be restricted in publishing past papers, mark-schemes, examiners' reports etc. There will be 'limited predictability' in papers.
- The EBC will not be appropriate for a small group of students, who will get a 'Statement of Achievement' instead. Even these students will have to take the EBC in English and Maths post-16 until they are 'secure'.)
- The proposals recognise the ‘elephant in the room’: the impact from the late 1990s of the ferocious and arbitrary Ofsted regime on the drive for easy results, leading to 'teaching to the test' etc: "We will shortly launch a full consultation on how to improve the accountability system for secondary schools in England, building on these changes. The consultation will invite views on how best we can measure performance in these subjects to support all students to achieve the highest standards. It will explore how we can ensure that schools are rewarded for teaching high value qualifications and are able to make decisions about qualifications on the basis of their worth without perverse incentives to boost their apparent standing in school performance tables. "
Could be good news? Or empty rhetoric?
EBC syllabuses to be in schools by the end of 2013 (to prevent a new government from scrapping them as soon as they get to power?). That is incredibly fast. So the timetable would have to be something like:
1. Consultation responses by December 10th 2012
2. Early 2013 (?): DfE guidance to awarding bodies on how to prepare a bid and what the DfE’s ‘broad expectations’ are in each subject.
3. Boards prepare their bids in each subject they decide to go for – by September 2013?
4. Ofqual vet the bids, but only to see if the proposed syllabuses (and specimen papers? And mark-schemes?) could actually work – by October 2013?
5. DfE (Gove and his pals) decide who should get the 5-year contract to examine each subject. New syllabuses in English, Maths and Science out to schools by December 2013.
You know what I think?
There was no way that GCSE could carry on in its present form. You may think that the consultation is a phoney exercise, and you may be right. There are certainly some appalling ideas here, but I think we have to enter into the consultation with a clear sense of what we want History 14-16 to look like and argue hard for it.
We have the best History teachers in the world. We have everything to play for.