Michael Gove has caused a storm this morning, with his proposal to split GCSEs. The Mail has the scoop, but, essentially, this is in a bid to improve standards — Gove plans to replace GSCEs in maths, English and the three sciences, which will be awarded separately rather than as a block, with something similar to the old O-level; he also want more rigorous exams in history, geography and modern languages. Modules are also to be a thing of the past; Gove’s curriculum will be a test of memory as well as a test of understanding. Courses may be completed in 2 years or 3 years (ie, aged 17), depending on candidates’ ability. Finally, Gove wants to introduce a new certificate for those pupils who are not academically inclined.
The unions and the Labour party object to the introduction of a two-tiered education system, arguing that it is ‘elitist’, as if promoting academic excellence is an inherently bad thing. Others take a more a nuanced view — the FT’s Chris Cook has a detailed post on the impact Gove’s policy would have on social mobility, although it neglects to mention the other half of Gove’s education reforms, which are designed to break down post code barriers and improve standards in inner cities. Meanwhile, the Telegraph’s Daniel Knowles smells a rat, and suggests that this is a ploy to distract the party which will never be enacted. I was inclined to agree with Knowles until I saw Gove respond to an urgent question on the proposals in the House just now. Gove clearly means what he says.
As John Rentoul notes, Gove’s candid determination is a characteristic he shares with Tony Blair, who is Gove’s inspiration where schools are concerned. And, like Blair, he will encounter virulent opposition. Gove’s first problem will be to overcome Lib Dem recalcitrance, which was evident in that so few attended the urgent question. Several Lib Dems are urging Clegg to block the plans; and so far the Lib Dem leadership has resisted signing them off – indeed, it seems that they had not seen the plans before today. This could be another issue to add to the coalition’s growing grounds for divorce.
CoffeeHousers, you can ask Gove about this radical plan at next week’s Spectator education conference. You can find out more here.Tags: Education, Liberal Democrats, Michael Gove, Tony Blair