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Gove’s exam reforms are a dangerous step backwards

Gove’s exam reforms are a dangerous step backwards

🕔03.Dec 2012
English: Michael Gove speaking at the Conserva...

It was nearly 30 years ago that I left school, having taken my O levels. My abiding memories of those exams are fear and sleepless nights revising before sitting in the school hall for three hours, hearing those words, “you can now turn over your papers”.

It is to their credit that in 1986 a Conservative government, replaced O levels with GCSEs and brought in coursework to count towards the final result. The benefit was twofold. First it wasn’t an all-or-nothing three hours of praying your memory didn’t let you down. Second, coursework provides a regular check for teachers that their pupils have understood the work they are being taught in the first place.

It is very worrying to think education minister, Michael Gove believes the O level system is better than continual assessment. Even the cleverest child can find the exam hall a stressful experience. Exam-only qualifications are to the benefit of the best memory, not necessarily the best brain.

The CBI has called for school leavers to be better prepared for the world of work. There are very few jobs where you are hired after taking a three-hour exam – it is much more often by proving you know the area you have applied for. The world of work and technology has changed since 1986 and that should be reflected in the way our children learn and gain qualifications.

Every year we see the same headlines as the exam results are released in August, with the argument being that they are too easy. My son has just started working on his GSCEs and although he is learning some of the same material I had in my O levels, the variety of the subjects covered is much greater.

My main worry is that there is so much to being discussed at the moment, these vital decisions will be overlooked especially as no-one has explained the benefits of retracting coursework and re-introducing exam only O levels.

There is no area that cannot be improved with a review of how to move forward but these proposals move us backwards. There are schools being forced to be academies, does this mean parents do not understand what it means?

Education for our children goes hand-in-hand with providing them with decent housing. Neither of these requires a huge injection of money but both require good management. Schools do not need imposed changes and for decent housing look no further than the hundreds of empty properties around the country, compulsory orders and builders on the unemployment register would go a long way to plugging the housing gap.

All I ask is that the Government stands back before making a final decision. If they can explain why it is necessary perhaps they can carry the teachers with them, but I do not believe the case has yet been made.

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