Taking on random Tory policy not included in the coalition agreement, negotiating and amending it, and then presenting the new policy to the world as a joint enterprise, has generally ended in tears for the Lib Dems (tuition fees, NHS reforms etc etc). And we seem to have gone down the same road on ‘Gove’ Levels. But on this occasion, I have to say I don’t find the results all that unpalatable (though I'm bound to say this isn't a universally held view in the party).
They’re not perfect either – I’ll come to that in a moment – but let’s start off on a positive note.
I don’t object in principle to making the exam harder. I did object in the strongest possible terms to the re introduction of the CSE – but indeed it seems the new exam avoids even the two tier nature of the GCSE and I applaud this.
Personally I favoured the continuous assessment nature of GCSEs, for the single reason that at school I would have done rather better under that system than the single chance O level exam. I was simply better at course work. But I accept that there must be many children for whom the opposite is true, and this is swings and roundabouts. I certainly don't agree with the notion that children from less well off homes are less physically capable of holding a pen for three hours - a notion Neil Monnery debunks very well here.
I think the nonsense of schools being able to choose 'easy' examination boards being swept away by the granting of single board 5 year franchises per subject is to be welcomed. Even if this move away from the free market is a surprise from Gove.
I'm also glad this is now a consultation - because I have some questions and some issues with the proposals as written (and I would encourage everyone to click on this link and go read the proposals in full)...
1. The proposals only cover England. Scotland was always separate of course, but Wales and N Ireland are to be consulted at Assembly level as to what they want to do. I hope we are not going to end up with four separate systems, and worse still English private schools being permitted to choose Welsh papers etc.
2. If you get a full set of Core Subject ECB papers you will qualify for a Full English Baccalaureate. Apart from the fact that they are really going to have to call it something else, this begs a few questions. The core subjects listed are English, Maths, 'the Sciences', geography or history and 'a language'. This suggests children will do 8 papers typically - as English Language and English Literature are listed separately (though this is not made explicit).
But what of children who don't want to do all 3 sciences but would rather do Geography and History? Or do one science and three languages? By a straight reading of the proposal, this would not qualify for the Full English Baccalaureate. This need clarifying.
3. The one language can be Greek or Latin. I'm not knocking these - but it does seem contrary to the stated aspirations of more English students achieving more modern languages skills.
4. And what of non core but equally academically challenging subjects? Economics? Sociology? Geology? can these not be part of the 'Full' baccalaureate?
5. And finally - I firmly believe that some elements of course work play an integral part in making qualifications better. Geography Field Trips? Science Practicals? Do these really have no part to play in a more rounded and worthwhile qualification?
So lots of positives in the new proposals. But a few questions from me still to answer