Opinion Former Article

Voice: Michael Gove's EBacc u-turn welcome news, but it calls into question his judgment

by Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals

This is astonishing but welcome news. On Tuesday evening, Michael Gove was praising and promoting the EBacc in a speech to the Social Market Foundations. On Thursday morning, we learn that he will scrap the idea. This raises serious questions about his judgement and his future as Education Secretary.

In that address, Mr Gove made headlines for dismissing aspects of the curriculum as ‘vapid happy talk’. Now it seems that the speech itself will remembered for being just that.

This U-turn is a triumph for democratic accountability and a lesson for Mr Gove. In future, instead of rushing ahead regardless, following his own agenda, the Education Secretary must learn to listen, take advice from the profession, consider carefully and undertake genuine consultations.

Describing a narrow range of subjects as a ‘Baccalaureate’ devalued both the important subjects that would have been excluded and the more challenging and wider-ranging International Baccalaureate.

Pupils, parents and employers should welcome this too as it removes some uncertainty from the future value of GCSEs, which had seemed condemned to second class status.

We hope that there will now be a national debate and genuine consultation, not only on the future of GCSEs and proposals for the National Curriculum, but on the whole 14-19 system of education.

As compulsory education or training is extended to 17 and then 18, we should be discussing whether there is a need for exams at 16 at all.

While Voice would welcome fewer exams in total, there are advantages to modular exams and to coursework. They give a more accurate assessment of where pupils are at different parts of a course and encourage pupils to focus throughout a course rather than just prepare for exams.

Whatever examinations and curriculum eventually emerge, it is crucial that they meet the needs of all learners so that all students are able to leave school or college having received a well-rounded education, effective recognition of their abilities and the opportunity to enjoy a fulfilling life. This will enable them to make a valuable and productive contribution as citizens of a society which values education as a preparation for life rather than as an examination factory.


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