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Academies through the back door -- the truth about the English GCSE fiasco:

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by unfoggingblogger, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. unfoggingblogger

    unfoggingblogger Occasional commenter

    The unfogging blogger – shining the light of clarity on political issues:
    Education, education, education: Blair’s famous hat trick of repetition hurtled the cosy world of the public sector education into the cold, mechanistic and covetous hands of semi-privatisation and politicised it beyond recognition. However, what should be on our collective minds are exam results, exam results, exam results – don’t worry, I promise not to mimic Blair in any other way in this article.
    Yes, you know what I’m talking about, unless you wallow in a sea of political ignorance, that is to say you’d rather watch the X Factor and other forms of “popular”, mind-stultifying “entertainment”. It is important to focus on the hoo-ha and controversy around the English Language GCSE results. As we all know, the results experienced their first ever fall. There was a 1.5% fall in students achieving A*-C grade in this particular core subject.
    The questions are: why is this important? Why is this controversial? Is this, in fact, a “good” or “bad” thing?
    Firstly, it’s very important for numerous reasons. English Language GCSE is a core subject which employers and colleges sincerely care about. After all, the ability to communicate through the written word is an essential business skill, as well as a life skill. Also, with the economy in dire straits, it is fundamental that students are able to fill in their benefit forms which governmental cuts are consigning them to.
    As the English language is the lingua franca, the dominant international language, it is vital that the nation invented this beautiful, poetic language doesn’t create exam fiascos which embarrasses our educational system in the eyes of the international community.
    The actual statistics are rather cold: they don’t tell the human story of the affair. How many teenagers are now victims of Gove, Gove the Celsius 7/7 Islamophobe’s educational meddling? They’ve had their dreams, or at least their economic survival, destroyed because of his tough talk, and all the spittle on his (rather weak) chin. Gove talked of teenagers “being consigned to the scrapheap” because of higher and foundation level exams, but we must ask ourselves, hasn’t his rhetoric caused exactly that?
    He’s talked of introducing O levels, with only one exam board, so schools don’t shop around for easier exams (which, to be fair, they have done). Now, if you were the chief executive of an exam board, what would you do as a signal of intent before these reforms happen? Wouldn’t you want to do something to show that you’re the ideal exam board, one which is rigorous? So, how Gove can deny he had any impact on the results is nothing short of him displaying his sophistry, his art of dissembling, and how he is a bourgeois fool.
    Secondly, the decision to set the bar higher is very controversial. At first sight, you may think the fact that there has been a 1.5% swing downwards isn’t a big deal. It’s not a huge figure, is it? Well, yes and no. The manipulation – and that’s what it is – of the exam results has a disproportionate impact on certain schools, especially those hovering dangerously above special measures.It won’t be the grammar schools, with the intellectual cream, that are devastated.It’s going to be the non-selective schools in the borough that will have the sword of Ofstedcles, with the words “SPECIAL MEASURES” imprinted on it, inches away from their throats, swaying ever closer.
    Let’s be honest here: the non-selective schools in the London Borough of Bexley, by their very nature, are going to have a lot of average pupils on their books. Average pupils hover around the C-D borderline. I assume you’re getting the picture.
    Let me pull the rabbit out of the hat and explain where the real controversy comes in. Schools which are deemed failing get put into special measures, but they’re also hugely likely to be converted into academies. And these unwanted conversions are spread by the dogmatic, ideological rhetoric of Michael Gove. It’s almost too good to be true, it’s almost like the whole thing was engineered. It actually appears to be a sinister conspiracy.
    Now Gove will say that around 50% of schools are academies already, so he doesn’t need to do this. However, it’s all about perspective. Let’s invert his argument: 50% of schools aren’t academies and they’re damned awkward, as they won’t play ball.
    Let’s review of this is a “good” or “bad” thing. Again I will have to say yes and no. There’s a lot more no than yes, but let me elaborate. Academies aren’t employed by the top four countries on the OECD index, which makes one wonder why we, that is to say the UK, have adopted this system at all. Seriously, what’s so great about them? If Gove wants to make exams more rigorous, I’m not wholly against it. I would prefer university numbers to be dictated by merit rather than wealth, as they are with the exorbitant fees which have been used to scare those on the lower rungs of society away from social mobility. Nevertheless, as we have a two tier education system, with 20’000 private educated pupils attending “top” universities, whilst children on free school meals hardly register at all, it’s clear that environmental differences – that is to say wealth – has a lot more to do with academic success than intelligence.
    However, it’s time for honesty and transparency. Why have we got an OCD fixation with C grades in the UK? Can students not become an engineer with a D? If someone wants to pursue an academic career that requires a very high level of literacy, I could understand the prevailing attitude. The fact is that a D grade student can read and write at a coherent level of English. If we asked the average Joe, or Jenny, from a HR to distinguish an English Language C grade from a D grade, do you honestly think they would be able to distinguish which is better and why?
    In conclusion, we really need to take a sober look at our educational system. We need to stop being little Englanders and look at the countries that top the board of the OECD index. What is about Finland, New Zealand, and Norway that makes their educational systems so successful ? It certainly isn’t academies, as these nations don’t employ such a competition obsessed system. There’s nothing wrong with rigorous exams; what is wrong, however, is when a society already divided by class becomes less egalitarian on the whims of an ideological fantasist. Michael Gove, it’s high time you got back in touch with reality.
     
  2. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    Excellent post. I just wish it didn't confirm my deepest, darkest suspicions of Gove and his ilk.
     
  3. MarkS

    MarkS New commenter

    Great post - spot on. With regards to your note on the fixation with C grades...a C grade used to be an indicator that a students was good enough to progress to A-Levels, in my subject (Physics) anyway. If a student achieved a C in Physics/Science and Maths, they would likely have a good chance of passing A-Level Physics. HOWEVER...that is not the case anymore...a C doesn't tell me that they are good enough - in fact it says the opposite.
     
  4. Captain Obvious

    Captain Obvious New commenter

    Hmm, while I'm no fan of academies as a way of "Driving up standards", that this is the "truth" is equally disingenuous.
    It's a set of inferences that appeals to your audience. They might be right, but there's no real proof (yet) it is the case.
     
  5. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    i might or might not agree with the sentiments of the OP.
    BUT
    was it Gove who introduced Academies or the lot supposedly on the other side of the political divide?
    but they are defintiely being pushed as the solution to everything,
    I arrived at a fixed term post today, new school to me. Bad GCSE results this summer so they have been <u>directed that they MUST</u> choose an academy provider within the next few weeks and start the process to academisation.
    By the LEA as it happens, whcih seems a bit odd to me, as where will their budget come from if all the schools become academies? Or do they get a brown envelope for each school they get rid of?
     

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