I was already planning to type up a few more developments in the #govelevels saga. Reading that Gove is to blame pretty much everyone except politicians for the difficulties in the exam system just means I’m finding it a little hard to be balanced. I’ll do my best, because I partly wonder if his intent is to push teachers to react angrily rather than rationally to his proposals. The more we respond with rhetoric and ad hominem attacks – as tempting as it is – the harder it is to seem professional.
Basically, this is going to be a short post with links that I’ve already shared on twitter. I’d like to flag them up again for anyone who missed them the first time, and to take the chance to comment in a little more than 140 characters. If there’s time, I’ll also address some of the comments from my previous post, which got a lot more attention than I expected.
First of all, I’d like to direct you to @miss_mcinerney‘s blog, where she explains why Gove is wrong on the ‘bottom 25%‘. The calculation goes some way to address my concerns in terms of ‘borderline’ students. It looks as if the 25% figure was plucked out of the air, perhaps to appeal to the very Daily Mail readers the story was leaked to. Laura’s calculations suggest an absolute maximum of 10% of students would be best suited to not doing O-levels, unless Gove is planning to make them even more challenging than even he suggests. (Of course in Science we’ve already seen OfQual decrease student grades, demoralising students and making targets fairly useless: information here and here.)
This smaller proportion will potentially stigmatize the students even more, as well as making the cost per student of implementing them – in terms of teacher time and money – even greater. Of course, maybe Gove just can’t tell the difference between 25% and 10%, in which case a resit is needed. (Oops – they’re not allowed any more!) I’ve already linked to her original post but if you haven’t yet read it, I’d like to recommend it once more.
If I’d read this post by @dukkhaboy about why O-levels aren’t the issue before I’d written up my piece, it might have saved me a lot of time. In particular it mentions something I passed over; each change in the specification means teachers can spend less time being innovative because they have to sort out the teaching scheme. Politicians seem oblivious to the thought that we might not be able to do this kind of thing as paid overtime.
Lots of interesting, reasonable responses, at least some of which are from people who know what they’re talking about, at the Guardian.
Warwick Mansell (@warwickmansell) has written a scathing critique of the National Curriculum review – it appears some of the same issues are present as with the ‘proposals’ for 14-16 exam changes. In particular, it seems ministers are ignoring the advice of professionals, the demands on teachers for writing local schemes, and the difficulties of implementing the changes in a short time. It’s as if the politicians haven’t a clue about the real world of education. The contrast between the evidence found and quoted in this article, and the very vague attempts at justification by Gove, Gibbs et al, is striking.
Thoughts, comments, ideas? Is Gove leaking such dramatic changes, as some have suggested, that more reasonable ‘official’ ones are accepted more easily. I suppose we’ll find out in time whether he has some evidence-based suggestions or if this has just been a way for him to bolster political support for a future leadership bid. I’ll leave you with that scary thought: that instead of being about children’s qualifications, this could all have been for political advancement. That’s the real weakness of having a Secretary of State who is a politician not an educator.