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Posts Tagged ‘Tristram Hunt’

An End to GCSEs?

April 24, 2015 2 comments

This article was originally published on Labour Teachers here.

This week Tristram Hunt postulated in the Guardian that a Labour government may look to phase out GCSEs all together. if you didn’t catch the article, have a look here.

It’s an interesting article, and I have to say I like some of the things he’s saying. Firstly, he’s ruling out radical quick reform. This is something that has been playing on my mind, after 4 years of Gove’s fast paced reformation I feel we need time to let it embed. We haven’t assessed the new GCSEs or A Levels yet and won’t for a few years, and I feel it is right to let this take place given the work that is already underway. I happen to think the new maths curricula are in fact better than the old ones so am looking forward to teaching the new content. I am happy, though, that there are plans afoot to restore the AS /A level link.

The second thing I liked about Tristram’s comments was that he feels there is a wider discussion to be had, and that the education agenda needs to be thought through in a long term manner. This is something Gove never really seemed to think. With him it was reform, reform, reform. Some good, some bad, all fast. It felt like consultations were being hidden because they were being done over the six week summer holidays where many involved in education are refreshing themselves ahead of the new academic year. Tristram seems committed to taking views from all stakeholders and working with the sector, rather than imposing on it.

Finally, there is the proposal itself. An end to the current model and a total overhaul of everything we know! It’s a scary prospect, but also an exciting one.

I’ve written before about vocational education and our repeated failure, as a nation, to get it right. Maybe this is how we can. Instead of single subjects the suggestion is that students would leave with a baccalaureate. This could be academic or vocational and both would be equivalent.

The ins and outs aren’t fleshed out in the article, but I would envision a core section (possibly covering the old “three Rs”, basic history, hopefully some political education) and then a wide selection of options. I believe other countries run similar types of programmes. I’d imagine it gives a lot of scope for choice.

I do have reservations though, and I would certainly need more information before I could definitely say I agreed with the proposal. It’s unclear when students would sit it. We’ve seen a requirement introduced for young people to be in education or training up until 18, but if the baccalaureate was assessed at 18 would those choosing apprenticeships and the such from 16 leave school with nothing? Would study towards a baccalaureate be a requirement for said apprenticeships? Or would young people need to stay in school until 18? What exactly would the baccalaureate look like? How would we ensure the technical baccalaureate and the academic one hold the same footing? All in all, an interesting development that opens a much wider conversation.

What do you think about these proposals? Do you think this could be the way forward, or would you prefer to keep the system as is? I’d love to know!

4 Govian Years – A Retrospective

July 15, 2014 3 comments

I was going to call this piece “Goodbye, Mr Gove”, but Old Andrew (@OldAndrewUk) has already written this one with that title. I read his post, really enjoyed it and agreed with the majority of it. But that’s not what I wanted to write. This mornings announcement was a total shock, one from which I still haven’t really recovered! I wanted to have a look at some of the policy decisions that have happened during Mr Gove’s tenure and explore my feelings on them. I have tried to write objectively, and not taint my feelings on these policies with my feelings of Gove himself. I haven’t researched specifically for this post, all the measures here are from memory. If I’ve attributed something wrongly, or remembered it wrong, I do apologise. Feel free to correct in the comments and I will amend.

Progress 8

Progress 8 is something I have been meaning to blog about for a while, and I will blog in more detail soon. I think it is the single best piece of Education Policy in recent history and I have high hopes that it will eliminate the idea of a threshold pass which is detrimental to pupils. I truly hope that this measure doesn’t get scrapped by the incoming Education Secretary.

The New Maths Curriculum

The new secondary maths curriculum is, in my opinion, much better than the current one. It includes much more challenge for the most able and is far more rigorous. I have every faith that it will provide a much better grounding for A Level maths than the one we have at the moment. My only criticism is that it doesn’t go far enough. There are still some highly irrelevant topics (Why do we need to perform translations by hand in the 21st century?) and I would have loved to see basic Calculus and an intro to Complex Numbers included.

I’m yet to see the draft A Level curriculum, but I have high hopes for it. I feel tat Complex Numbers need to be included in A Level maths, and not just be kept for further maths. I’m fairly excited about the core maths qualification and hope that all these curriculum reforms lead to more people continuing with maths post 16 and post 18.

Performance Related Pay

I think this one is a terrible policy. It is open to abuse and could cause all sorts of trouble within schools. Teaching should be full of collaboration, but this runs the risk of pitting teachers against each other and causing people to share, and collaborate less. People may be less willing to help out a colleague in the fear that their results will outshine their own.

The death of early entry

I am a fan of this piece of policy. We had a ridiculous scenario where pupils were sitting their GCSE 6 times in some school before the end of year 11. The whole of their year 10 and 11 maths lessons were geared towards “hitting the c” and many potential A Level candidates were put off maths and many who could have scored A’s and B’s were never taught the higher stuff because of the regime they were in.

It also gave rise to classes where pupils had reached grade C at the end of year 10 and had then decided that that was good enough, so they refused to do any further work. Meaning that students who should and could have scored A’s and A*’s reached KS5 with only C grades. I know many students this year who had C’s but re-sat their maths GCSE as they needed B’s to get onto the courses they want to study at university.

Only June exams

This is a strange one. I have long been of the view that sitting all exams at the end of the year if of the most benefit for the students as once the whole course is completed they have a deeper understanding. In maths A Level C1 becomes really easy once you have studied C3 and C4 for instance. But on the other hand, ever year the January exams provide a reality check for many who walked the GCSE exams without working and thought they would be able to do this with A Levels. This may be off set in the long term by the tougher GCSEs, and IU think that Mocks done properly could recreate this effect.

Removal of QTS as a requirement

This is, quite frankly, a ridiculous policy. I’ve written before about my feelings on this matter, but to sum them up I would say that I think ever teacher should have had, or at least be having, some basic training. I’m fine with the schools direct/teach fist model of learning while teaching, but I think that this should be the minimum. I also feel that all teachers should be in control of their own CPD.

So, the verdict?

I don’t like what Gove stands for, I don’t like his Party and I don’t like his Ideology. I wouldn’t, however, say that everything he has done has been terrible. Slagging the Education Secretary off for every move he makes is something that has happened for as long as I can remember, and I think we need to start assessing policies on their own merits, not on who puts them forward. Gove is a fantastic orator and is brilliant at polarising public opinion. He has brought Education to the forefront of the minds of most people and raised its profile no end. I find some of his policies abhorrent, but I also find some of them to be fairly good. And I hope beyond all hope that when Nicky Morgan puts her own stamp on the portfolio that she doesn’t cancel Progress 8.

The Future?

I know very little about Nicky Morgan, I read her voting record this afternoon and baulked at it, particularly her major opposition to equal marriage. She rarely rebels (5 times out of 955 votes), which suggests she is agreeable to all the governments policies, or is happy to tow the line to further her career. On Education matters she has gone with the government on all major votes. She has little background in education, which means she is even further removed from the classroom than Gove, who at least had studied it as shadow minister for years before taking office. I only see things getting worse under her.

I said to a friend last week that Tristram Hunt needed to get up to scratch fast, come up with some policies and be ready to take on Gove at the dispatch box or he would run the risk of losing the debate ahead of 2015. I think the conservatives have done him a favour here, and now is the time for Labour to put forward their views on the education portfolio and take a lead on driving future policy.

I’d love to hear your views on the Govian years. I’m sure I’ve missed some major policies here, but here are the ones that stuck in my mind.

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