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Expert Comment: GCSE Reform Plans

Exam Monday 11 February 2013

Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education Dr Sue Cronin takes a look at the changes to Michael Gove's exam reforms.

The majority of the education community gave a sigh of relief last week as Michael Gove admitted his proposed changes to the examination system were a “a bridge too far”.  Whether experts in the field agree or disagree with Gove’s commitment to exam reform nearly all were concerned with the sheer pace at which the reforms were to be introduced. Many would see the logic of reducing the number of examination boards offering GCSE’s, which at present result in what Gove referred to as “a race for the bottom”. But the government’s lack of understanding of the legal complexities of imposing such a significant change in moving to one single examination body is indicative of a worrying underlying tendency of not listening to the voice of experts.

No-one would disagree with the aspiration to raise standards for all children and to ensure they all are well prepared to succeed in life when they leave school. Gove may be admired for his passion and commitment to this aim, however his tunnel vision and unwillingness to listen to a huge number of experts and advisers is not so admirable.  (Two of the panel of four expert advisers for the review of the National Curriculum, Professors Mary James and Andrew Pollard, wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove threatening to resign as they felt their views were not being valued). The priority of assessment reform over curriculum is the wrong way around.  The U-turn is a welcome break as it is crucial the curriculum for the next generation is balanced, including creative and arts based subjects, and appropriately assessed. For many subjects and pupils this may be a summative three-hour examination but for some subjects the role of coursework and extended projects may be highly appropriate. There needs to be a fully informed debate rather than a change for change sake.

The school report for Michael Gove may read “Tries hard but needs to listen more closely to his teachers”

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