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Coffee House

Teaching unions: don’t reform exams, you might upset someone!

11 June 2013

9:07 AM

11 June 2013

9:07 AM

Critics and fans of Michael Gove alike accept that sometimes the Education Secretary can be a little too pugnacious. He often encourages the pantomime boos that accompany him, and will throw himself into any fight with gusto. But then the representatives of the leading teaching unions pop up to criticise his reforms, and it becomes very clear how Gove ended up like this.

Christine Blower’s interview on the Today programme was one notable example. The NUT general secretary argued that grades hadn’t necessarily been devalued, and that the reforms might devalue the achievements of those children who have already passed their exams. She said:

‘We think this is slightly rushed and also it tends to demean the achievements of students who have got GCSEs in the past.’


She explained that that ‘it’s the persistent use of expressions like ‘dumbing down’ that we think are not really acceptable. I mean, the point is that just because more children and young people have been successful, it doesn’t mean that grades have been devalued.’

The teaching unions don’t tend to analyse the logic behind any of their arguments they use to oppose reforms: they say performance-related pay will damage children’s education, presumably on the basis that it will upset some of their members who aren’t much cop and who fail to bag a pay rise. So arguing that reform is a bad thing because it might upset someone who has had the misfortune of being part of the current system (which don’t forget brought children this debacle) is just another example of the way what Gove calls The Blob likes to operate. Don’t reform: it will upset hardworking teachers. Don’t reform: it will upset children who once took an exam. This is like arguing that you shouldn’t go to the gym because you might realise how unfit you are when you first clamber on the treadmill, or that you’ll upset someone else who still has weedy arms if you build big bulging triceps.

Nowhere does there seem to be much concern for how children who are now starting school will be able to compete for jobs in the ‘global race’ that ministers enjoy talking about. No wonder Michael Gove can give the impression he’s constantly between bouts in the boxing ring.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


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