The government is doing away with GCSEs because they represent a “race to the bottom” and don’t reflect Michael Gove’s draconian attitudes towards learning and testing.
Modular GCSE courses will be replaced by two years of learning followed by a three-hour exam for each subject. Great. Except it’s not. It’s a terrible idea. The kind of idea popular with those who bemoan slipping standards, who think children should be seen and not heard and who can’t stop harking back to the good old days when exams “really meant something”.
What Michael Gove and his supporters fail to realise is that one final exam is not a good measure of someone’s aptitude in a given subject. It doesn’t allow for those who get overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, who aren’t feeling well on the day, who get stage fright, who have an excellent grasp of the subject, but whose minds go blank in the face of pressure.
“Diddums,” I hear you say. “That’s how it was in my day.” I know, I know, you just had to get on with it. In the same way that Victorian children just had to “get on with” cleaning chimneys and working in factories instead of going to school. I suppose this is a similar point to the one Nik Butler made a couple of weeks ago in his column about Sunday trading. Yes, we managed in the past, but that doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t change for the better.
We should be talking about maximising the chances of success for our children. We should be talking about how we can best teach them and nurture them to become people who love learning and information, are curious about the world and who believe they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it.
We shouldn’t be teaching children that they are failures if they aren’t good at exams. It’s too common a problem and leads to people being cast aside. If a 16-year-old fails their Ebacc (English Baccalaureate) in five years’ time, it has a direct impact on what they are able to do next.
Michael Gove admitted that many children will “leave school without qualifications”. So where does that leave them? Left behind, that’s where.