17 September 2012

English Baccalaureate Certificates - a camel by any other name

Today's announcement by England's education secretary, Michael Gove, of a new qualification to replace the GCSE has all the hallmarks of a hastily cobbled together compromise designed to try and overcome two diametrically opposed views about what the exam system should be about. At the one end there is the Govian view of an elitist system designed around the brightest kids. At the other there is the producer interest - strongly represented in Lib Dem ranks - backing a one size fits all system designed give those the bottom end academically something to show for their years of compulsory schooling.

So it is no surprise that the email that arrived at Living on Words towers from the Rt Hon David Laws MP - is full of warm words and glib cliches - in an effort to paper over the obvious cracks in the design.

Here is some of its ever so slightly contradictory content:
"Our proposals will restore rigour to the exam system, allow us to compete on the international stage, and end years of grade inflation under Labour.

Liberal Democrats will never accept a return to an unfair, two-tier system that divides children into winners and losers at a young age.

That’s why Nick negotiated with the Conservatives over the summer to ensure that the exam system will be more rigorous, but will also have Liberal Democrat ideas of fairness and social mobility at its heart. Our new qualification will:
  • Be designed for the same children who currently sit GCSEs – whatever their ability level;
  • Stretch those at the top while ending the cap on aspiration that means some children sit exam papers which don’t allow them to achieve more than a grade C;
  • Reward children for their individual aptitude and ability – unlike the O-Level there will be no cap on top grades;
  • Include new provision for the very small number of children, including those with special educational needs, who don’t sit GCSEs at the moment.
....the first teaching for these new exams, which we propose calling English Baccalaureate Certificates, will begin in 2015.

By working together in coalition Liberal Democrats have been able to secure a new qualification fit for the future, that will benefit all students and not just the privileged few."
The idea that you can design something that 'restores rigour', 'stretch those at the top', 'reward individual ability' and at the same time design something 'for ...children whatever their ability level' and has 'no cap on top grades' or 'aspiration' sounds far fetched (or indeed exactly like the now clearly unlamented ...er GCSE).

No comments:

Post a Comment