Gove plots to scrap GCSEs and bring back the old ‘elitist’ O Level

20 June 2012
link to original

The breaking news tonight, splashed all over the Daily Mail’s website, is that Michael Gove is aiming to scrap the GCSE qualification over the next few years and bring back the old O Level. The Mail claims:

Teachers like me will certainly be taking a big “gulp” at this news. I’m in the position of having taught GCSEs for the last twenty years but having been one of the last cohorts in the mid-1980s to take O Levels. My experience of O Levels were that they were very reductive and somewhat simplistic exams; I’m no fan of GCSEs, but in comparison to the old O Level they are enlightened qualifications! For example, the old O Level English had no coursework or speaking and listening component, and asked questions that required fairly basic skills such as summary skills, essay writing and reading comprehension. My memory of school is doing endless drilling in preparation for these exams to the exclusion of everything else. It left me, like thousands of other pupils, feeling alienated and dispirited. Michael Gove might have enjoyed doing them, but most of us didn’t.

It also has to be borne in mind that O Levels were taken by fewer than a third of pupils, leaving a whopping 70% of pupils to take the second-rate CSE qualification, or leave school with no qualification at all. A return to this sort of elitist qualification system would be an unmitigated disaster, leaving most of our school leavers with second-rate qualifications to their name.

Gove is essentially an “elitist” in the sense that he believes that a certain percentage of pupils should be “creamed off” from the rest; he is the servant of the Tory shires and upper middle-class who want to separate their children off from the “rabble”. He’s shown this time again in his free schools policy, in his sneaky ploy to expand grammar schools, and now, most classically, in his junking of our current examination system. He has little time for the evidence; serious research suggests that GCSE may not be “dumbed down” at all. It’s a contested area, but there’s nothing conclusive to prove O Levels are a “better” qualification.

It’s time for someone in the Lib-Dems and the opposition to start talking about equality more seriously. Where are you Nick Clegg? Where are you Sarah Teather? Do you agree with this dangerous nostalgic nonsense? Where’s Twigg?

What is he is doing our school system is simply very unfair. It’s time to protest.

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17 comments

  1. What’s wrong with intellectual elitism? It’s better than dumbing everyone down to the same level and making the GCSE qualification a laughing stock in business.

    The prizes-for-all philosophy of the last 30 years has not worked. My 14 year-old son, who is reasonably clever and persistently gets 7s in his tests cannot even attempt the 1960s maths entrance exam I did at age 13.

    If the CSE is worthless, then perhaps it should be given some worth – but that can only be done by making it tougher – which again introduces elitism, as not all will pass the exam.

    Catch 22.

  2. Good for Gove. He might not have it absolutely right yet, but good consultation should see him there. It’s long past time that the system is overhauled and children were taught properly. The ‘Loony Left’ in education have ruled for too long.

    from Peter Stubbs
  3. I forgot to mention that Francis Gilbert’s son was not sent to state school for a good education, but to a private school. What should we read into that?

    from Peter Stubbs
  4. Peter – it’s not just the Loony Left; all parties have been equally complicit in the general dumbing down of education.

  5. This from a man who sent his own son to a private school.

    How elitist is that?

    from Bill
  6. is it true your child is in private school as claimed by Guido?
    Makes you a top notch hypocrite

    from david
  7. “SINGAPORE IS A FASCIST STATE!” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, I’m still in tears!

    from Adem Aljo
  8. http://exposingsingapore.wordpress.com/category/one-party-state-singapore/

    from francisgilbert
  9. http://www.francisgilbert.co.uk/2009/10/why-i-moved-my-son-from-a-prep-school-to-a-state-primary/

    from francisgilbert
  10. If your son had had a great time at his prep school, would he still be receiving a private education?

    And my wife would like to know if your son receives any private tuition.

    Looking forward to your replies.

    Zaki and Susan.

    from Zaki Hashmi
  11. SINGAPORE IS A FASCIST STATE!

    Doesn’t matter whether you were right or not Gilbert. You will forever go down in history as a shouty man on tv. Ever lost your temper with the kids you teach when they express an opinion you don’t like? Furthermore what exactly does the politics of Singapore have to do with their education system, which is excellent. Or perhaps we should ban excellent education systems if they are practised by people we don’t like?

    In fact this whole thing is about you not liking things that an awful lot of other people agree with and not liking that you are in a minority. Deservedly.

    from Dunkers Donuts
  12. Francis, I grew up in Singapore (1960-1980), attended a British private school for Years 1-3, then a local Singapore school for Years 4-6, then elite Australian boarding school for secondary.

    The British private school did not teach me to read and I had a British teacher who hit me every day when I was just 7 years old.

    The Singapore school, I was in class of 45:1, was the only white, English-speaking student and came near the bottom of the class, to due not being able to read. I remember being sent to the Principal’s office and she looked at my work and started to cry.

    At the Australian boarding school, class sizes were between 11 and 15:1. I was accelerated a year.

    Australia & the UK have much the same non-evidence-based education with teaching driven by personal belief, old wives tales and memes. Singapore uses evidence to drive teaching & learning programmes and education policy.

    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just over 50% of school leavers have basic literacy & numeracy skills too weak for everyday activities.

    Australia has just published the results of its first test of the basic literacy & numeracy skills of graduate teachers and found that 40% could not pass Year 7 level literacy & numeracy.

    While I chose to give up my Singapore citizenship because I prefer life in Australia, I desperately wish I could have sent my son to school in Singapore because the way they teach children is so much better and more humane then our fluffy, well-intentioned system which fails kids by constantly setting them up to fail and then crying crocodile tears for students but doing nothing to change teaching practice..

    Instead of dismissing the highly effective Singapore school system because you don’t like their politics, perhaps you should take the time to learn why Singapore schools are so successful.

    Regardless of Singapore politics, the schools have achieved social mobility which is something that the UK is in dire need of.

    from Yvonne Meyer
  13. Yes, I’m not sure I presented myself in the best possible light. I’ve posted a reply here: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/06/its-true-i-feel-passionate-about-the-education-of-our-children-thats-why-i-get-angry-when-toby-young-spouts-his-ignorant-nonsense/

    I think it’s a valid point to question the validity of education systems that are nurtured in autocracies; children will necessarily behave very differently in autocratic states compared with democratic states and this will make a big difference to the ways schools operate. We live in a democracy, “shouty” people like me are tolerated, not carted off to prison…

    from francisgilbert
  14. I’ve posted more of my thoughts here: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/06/its-true-i-feel-passionate-about-the-education-of-our-children-thats-why-i-get-angry-when-toby-young-spouts-his-ignorant-nonsense/

    from francisgilbert
  15. I was talking about O Levels…

    from francisgilbert
  16. Teachers like me will certainly be taking a big “gulp” at this news. I’m in the position of having taught GCSEs for the last twenty years but having been one of the last cohorts in the mid-1980s to take O Levels. My experience of O Levels were that they were very reductive and somewhat simplistic exams; I’m no fan of GCSEs, but in comparison to the old O Level they are enlightened qualifications! For example, the old O Level English had no coursework or speaking and listening component, and asked questions that required fairly basic skills such as summary skills, essay writing and reading comprehension. My memory of school is doing endless drilling in preparation for these exams to the exclusion of everything else. It left me, like thousands of other pupils, feeling alienated and dispirited. Michael Gove might have enjoyed doing them, but most of us didn’t.

  17. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m in a similar position to you, having taken the last of the old O Levels; they were a test of “nerves” not knowledge!

    from francisgilbert

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