GCSEs are to stay!

(208 Posts)

I didn't see that coming. Sorry if there's a thread already, I did look.

story here

SanityClause Thu 07-Feb-13 09:18:08

I looked as well, and only found yours. I am so delighted, as DD2 would've been one of the guinea pigs!

Oh that's good then.
While I think GCSEs have their own issues, it's time to stand still and improve what we've got for a little while, rather than more reform.

SanityClause Thu 07-Feb-13 09:31:58

Absolutely, and I think the devaluing of subjects like art and drama is stupid.

I was pretty much forced to do maths and science subjects at school, as that's what the "bright" children did. There was no emphasis on being a good all rounder, or on choosing the subjects you enjoyed.

DD1 is currently choosing her options (form due in on Monday) and her school have really encouraged a wide range of subjects, outside the compulsory ones. You really have to argue your corner if you want to do Latin and two MFL, for example. (Although they would let you, if languages were your passion.)

DorisIsWaiting Thu 07-Feb-13 09:52:17

When I heard this I just thought thank god someone has seen sense. Would love to have seen Gove's face when he was told grin

I'm really, really glad!

Xiaoxiong Thu 07-Feb-13 10:14:43

DH teaches RE and wrote to Michael Gove about the terrible effect the EBacc would have on his subject by not classifying it as a "humanity" under the previous proposals - I'm sure he will be overjoyed to hear this.

SuffolkNWhat Thu 07-Feb-13 10:17:23

I am sure he will Xiao (fellow RE teacher here)

My FB newsfeed filled with links about this today, lots of smug pictures of Fishface Gove though which isn't so good.

mummymeister Thu 07-Feb-13 10:19:54

personally glad to see this idea gone but would like to see something done about GCSE's where i think we need to change the emphasis back to nearer the old o level. certainly ebac was never the answer - everyone told him, he listened and he changed it so good on him for doing that.

Whydobabiescry Thu 07-Feb-13 10:21:08

apparently it's not a U turn though, just putting the brakes on lol

bugster Thu 07-Feb-13 10:27:47

Living abroad I don't know the details of what the proposed changes would have meant, or what the situation with GCSEs is these days, but I think it's important for all children to take maths and at least one science up to the age of GCSE. I had to when I was at school in England. I don't thonk other subjects should be devalued, but in comparison with other European countries, where maths and science are considered very important, British children will be at a disadvantage if they haven't got a good grounding in them.

merrymouse Thu 07-Feb-13 11:03:18

Not really surprised.

There was all this talk of O-levels, which the vast majority of the population never passed/took, and no explanation of what every body else was going to do.

Agree that GCSE's could be improved, but clearly they were no where near being able to offer a practical alternative.

WorraLiberty Thu 07-Feb-13 11:20:21

My DS has just chosen his options based on doing the E Bac

I wonder if he's going to rethink them now and if choosing something else will even be possible.

Lots of mucking around for the school but I agree with the scrapping.

Oddly enough, he wants to be an RE teacher! grin

breadandbutterfly Thu 07-Feb-13 11:22:29

Excellent news - so teachers can just get on with teaching and a fortune saved on new books/training/bla bla bla.

BadMissM Thu 07-Feb-13 11:59:20

Argh. DD just chosen options according to EBacc. I wonder if they will be allowed to choose again now? I do just wish they would stop messing about with it and give teachers a chance to get on (and get used to) what they are doing from one week to the next....

My DD's just chosen her options too - and I'm glad things will be more settled for her and her younger brother. I think any changes need to be taken slowly as there are always children in the system who will be affected (sorry is that an "a" I want there ?) I didn't really understand the proposals anyway, but agree with some that he always seems to be harking back to some fondly remembered past age that didn't really exist. And little mention of any child with special needs or learning difficulties - it's all "Every child should be able to ..." - though noticed in his speech today he was more inclusive being careful to say "Most children with good teaching ..."

soverylucky Thu 07-Feb-13 12:14:21

What they need to do is have one board for all exams and cut down the number of different options within a subject.

I think any children who have been choosing their options partly in light of proposed changes should have an opportunity to re-think them if they want to.

I'm pretty sure my DD will still be happy with her options though as they are History, Geography, and Art on top of many that are compulsory at her school.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 07-Feb-13 12:23:53

Why on earth can they not just leave things alone, make a decision and stick to it.
It doesn't really give a parent much faith in state education.

JuliaScurr Thu 07-Feb-13 12:25:39

Worra RE is a perfect choice - he will need the patience of a saint to endure all this f***wittery

gazzalw Thu 07-Feb-13 12:46:14

I have never known a govt change its mind about all its policies as much as this one....it's a scattergun approach which really isn't working for anyone. TBQH I think we could sit down and make more rational and realistic policies without the benefits of the 'experts'....hmm.

Relieved for DS though as he's already showing a greater aptitude for the Humanities than Sciences, even in Year 7....

TalkinPeace2 Thu 07-Feb-13 12:47:47

Latin was for the chop too ....
not now

boschy Thu 07-Feb-13 12:50:32

quote from our head: "great news". SM in grammar county - tho we outperform the grammars on quite a few areas...

hellsbells99 Thu 07-Feb-13 12:56:02

I think the measure that was brought in 2 years ago and is used in the league tables - 2 sciences, maths, english, mfl and history/geography will remain. Its the new new proposed EBac (brand new exams) that is for the chop. So Gove's original new old EBac measurement may still be used in future to give a child some sort of certificate. We ignored this when DD1 picked her options as the universities didn't seem bothered about it.

noblegiraffe Thu 07-Feb-13 13:00:57

The ebacc that has been scrapped isn't the ebacc that current Y9 students will have had one eye on when taking their options. Gove caused a hell of a lot of confusion by calling the new o-levels and the simple league table measure of academic subjects the same thing. hmm

I think it's good to study some humanities as well as sciences up to 16 (and obviously English and Maths too, and probably a language though they're not my nor DD's greatest strength)
Personally I think there's been a bit too strong a push for the sciences over the humanities. I think we need to think and learn about the world around us in terms of history and geography. And people should be more free to follow their strengths and interests.
Personally I regret dropping history at O level, and not choosing a more humanities based degree, as even a generation ago I was strongly encouraged to study the sciences. I was interested in those too, but I think I needed more balance, and more advice/ opportunity to consider my options.
I think anthropology or geography (or some mix thereof) would have been the best subject for me at Uni on reflection.

guineapiglet Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:02

Hi all - yes my son would have been one of the 'guineapigs' too - don't know whether to laugh or cry at the ineptitude shown towards our education system - my daughter did GCSEs last year, and they ended up a laughing stock with the fiasco re English and the realisation that Exam Boards were incompetent generally. It is just not good enough for our kids who are stuck in the middle of it.

I think in some ways we approach it all the wrong way, yes we need to listen to 'experts' ( who all seem to have differing views) but also to Universities and Employers - what do they want, what does the country need to be successful? - it clearly isn't working at the moment and it really is a disgrace that our kids are being led up one path and then the other with no coherent, long term strategy for them. They need qualifications which are coherent, rigourous, and internally recognised as being of good quality - including GCSEs, BTECs, NVQs and every other registered qualification they are attempting.

< Rant over, but I am bloody furious about their cavalier attitude towards our children> sad

cumfy Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:10

One exam board per subject is not going ahead either. (To prevent grade inflation).

Thought this was a very sensible idea.

guineapiglet Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:56

internationally, whoops.

Fowey123 Thu 07-Feb-13 13:33:56

We must stop politicians constantly tinkering around with education and using our kids as guinea pigs. It not only confuses the kids, but also the teachers, parents and future employers. Politicians please listen to common sense and turn your focus to pressing problems eg the economy and immigration.

gazzalw Thu 07-Feb-13 14:15:17

Is it still the case that certain exam boards are deemed to be more academic (difficult) than others? When I did my O Levels Oxford and Cambridge Boards were definitely the most highly regarded if not traditional!

SanityClause Thu 07-Feb-13 14:25:51

DD1 goes to a superselective grammar, and has also just had to choose her options. The HT was very scathing of the EBacc. It certainly was not compulsorary for the girls to choose EBacc subjects. In fact, in the four top schools in our borough - 2 superselective grammars and 2 independent, none insist on the students opting for EBacc subjects.

Faxthatpam Thu 07-Feb-13 14:26:24

Yes gazzalw, I think that is still the case, and some schools apparently shop around to find the 'easiest' boards. I don't really understand why there should be more than one board tbh - and would genuinely be interested to hear why multiple boards are a good thing.

Very glad he has backed down on this. If it was Clegg - finally the Lib Dems have done something useful!

MY DS3 would have been a 'guinea pig' too, so I am hugely relieved, but still worried they will mess about with GCSEs too much and teachers will be confused about how to teach them.

My DS2s year were the ones affected by the English debacle, some of his friends are having to re sit their English this year at the same time as ASs - bloody cock up. angry

lainiekazan Thu 07-Feb-13 15:30:14

I agree about the boards.

I noticed that in the case of RE there is a wide difference in how academic the subject is between different boards. Perhaps that is why RE didn't make it onto the original Ebacc approved list.

The "shopping around" thing is so unfair. I remember when I was at school the school prided itself on choosing the most difficult boards for each subject - they said that the universities knew . Don't suppose they did at all.

Mum2Luke Thu 07-Feb-13 16:15:31

I wish they would stop messing around with our kids' education. My DS3 goes to high school in September and they mentioned the EBacc then. I would like them to keep studying at least one foreign language instead of dropping it before doing GCSE.

Xenia Thu 07-Feb-13 16:44:53

The change to GCSEs mostly being done in one sitting after 2 years of study is staying.

I think a reasonable list that most children in academic schools might do is
English lit
Eng lang
a language (or two)

Then add on one or two from subjects like RE, music, art etc

The publication of which schools do decent subjects with the confusing similar name E something will stay and does help. Our local comp has 8% of children getting 5 GCSEs in decent subjects. It is helpful to know that. The academic private schools will have lots of children doing my whole list above or most of it - perhaps some doing one of history or geography or 2 not 3 sciences, but basically my list.

gabsid Thu 07-Feb-13 16:47:22

Great news! What an uninformed idea that seemed to have been, as if he had thought about this over night while dreaming about his old school days.

Improvements of the GCSEs are a better idea. I did like his idea of studying one modern foreign language all the way through. And I think it would be good to scrap league tables and have an average results published.

As far as I know the ebacc is NOT the same as the international baccalaureate. Ebacc is just another way of measuring the outcome of young people sitting gcses as normal. More demanding than the 5a*-c measure, similar to the outline xenia gives. It's staying, as far as I know. But children will continue to sit gcses, not a different exam altogether.

mummytime Thu 07-Feb-13 17:10:51

Ebacc is nothing to do with IB (a totally separate examination system, free of government interference but can be offered by State schools, normally sat at 18).

My DCs comp has made all kids do English (two for almost everyone), Maths, a language, Science (at least double, triple for the top sets), RE; they still given them a choice whether to do History or Geography or neither (as it is a comprehensive and some pupils will not be heading to University). Still gets 40% EBacc, 75% 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths.

Remind me someone ... what subjects are included in the (continuing) EBacc ?

In spite of DD choosing her options ATM in year 9 I'm not very clear about this ? confused

Faxthatpam Thu 07-Feb-13 17:46:20

Mummy - that sounds the same as my DCs comp. And probably pretty standard. There is also a pathway that includes the usual basics; Eng, Maths,Science, MFL, RE, ITC plus vocational BTECs, for the less academically inclined.

I'm really impressed with the BTECs actually, my DS2 is doing a BTEC and 2
A levels in 6th form and the BTEC is really interesting and challenging. He says he's getting loads more out of it than he thought he would, and will end up with quite a lot of UCAS points if he does well. He is not aiming for RG unis as they don't do the course he wants, so it suits him well. Although a friend of mine's son got onto a good course at an RG uni last yr with a Distinction in his BTEC plus A levels.

There's more to life than one size fits all GCSEs and ALevels. Wouldn't it be boring if everyone did that list of Xenia's? wink

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 07-Feb-13 17:47:39

I am fairly certain that the range of GCSE options will still be limited to an EBACC portfolio...in other words, kids will still be doing English, Maths, Science, one language, one humanity and three other options.

What has been scrapped is replacing the GCSE exams inEnglish, maths and science with another exam altogether that was going to be 'more rigorous'.

Thank fuck for that is all I could think this morning when I heard. However, as a teacher I am still waiting with some fear over the various changes still on the cards.

The shear number of changes Gove has been trying to push through for GCSE and A level in one go over the next two years is entirely unworkable

Faxthatpam Thu 07-Feb-13 17:51:35

"Thank fuck for that is all I could think this morning when I heard. However, as a teacher I am still waiting with some fear over the various changes still on the cards."

THIS! Completely feel for teachers here. Leave it alone.

cuggles Thu 07-Feb-13 19:27:03

Great news all around and as an RE teacher I am extra delighted! Particularly as I read that they will now (maybe!) look at school results based on eight subjects in which RE makes an appearance again. Employers/Universities need a working knowledge of what qualifications entail what and then they can make their judgements without constant goal post moving!
Absolutely agree with Fax too....everyone is different! Certainly I found in my early career, insisting all students did ten GCSEs regardless of ability or aptitude because that was the timetable was just so stressful for certain ones, Btecs and courses like COPE have meant all students can taste some success if they work hard rather than face failure lesson after lesson.

It annoys me that politicians still go on about course work. There hasn't been any course work for 3 years apart from in practical subjects such as Art.
Both of my DCs have done English controlled assessments which are pretty much the same as exams, sat in exam conditions. Instead of a 3 hour exam at the end of two years they have done about 15 hours worth of exams.
Terminal exams will be much less onerous IMO.

Oh that's interesting scwirrels - that you feel the exams will be less onerous when just held at the end of the 2 years with less controlled assessments as well.
- I hope so as DD just setting out on her GCSE path !

pointythings Thu 07-Feb-13 20:11:43

I'm glad the EBC is off the table, it was a stupid idea. I'm in favour of GCSEs being reformed to make them more academically challenging for the brightest, but within reach for most - this is a big ask though. I'm in favour of the proposed measure that looks at progress since 11 years old instead of just 5 GCSEs at A* to C including maths and English, much fairer as good progress can be made by all.

I'm not entirely in favour of scrapping modular exams. I went through the Dutch education system, and we had modular exams at A-level. You sat modular exams set by the school at the end of your pre-A-level year, after Christmas, after spring half term and after Easter, then central exams in May. The school-generated exams were modular, but based on the same curriculum as the central ones - and much harder. After sitting those, the centrally-set exams were easy. Modular examination can be done very, very well.

I also think the whole structure of exam boards working for profit should be scrapped. In Holland, exams are set by a single public body, whose employees work for the state. There is no profit involved, no incentive for dumbing down. Everyone sits the same exam.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 07-Feb-13 20:19:19

I agree that end of course exams are less onerous...certainly students wouldn't have that constant, ongoing pressure.

However, modules allow students to learn from their mistakes and try to improve. Which is what learning is about, right?

claig Thu 07-Feb-13 20:24:55

'modules allow students to learn from their mistakes and try to improve. Which is what learning is about, right?'

But that is not what exams are all about.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 07-Feb-13 20:27:34

Can I just say that having taught a vocational subject through Btec, it is not what dc choose if they aren't academic. Some of my students had really good GCSE results and chose it because their preferred subject was vocational.

That said, I'm so pleased for those who wanted the EBAC to go, maybe now teachers can get on with the job at hand hopefully without too many more bright ideas from Government.

Yes shipwrecked you would think so !

My DD has a great memory so may do OK with exams - though could have some probs with timing.
My memory is less good and I would have appreciated a balance of course work and exams for the assessment (but was old O level days, so all on exams)
I'm not sure people's differing memory abilities is really what we want to be testing though ?
Perhaps should be more about thinking skills ?

edam Thu 07-Feb-13 20:35:34

I'm glad Gove has finally backed down. He's been so bullish since becoming education sec, determined to do things his way, even when his way is ruddy stupid.

pointythings Thu 07-Feb-13 21:53:09

claig most university courses are modular. most workplace learning is modular - as in, you get set a project, you do the research, you complete the project, you go on to the next thing. The same applies to training and professional development.

Modular assessment is a far better reflection of how we are measured in the real world - that of work. Exams just test how good we are at, er, doing exams.

And I say that as someone who is really, really good at cramming-style exams, and has two DDs who are cut from the same cloth.

The important thing is equipping children for real life.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Thu 07-Feb-13 21:54:39

What are exams all about then, claig?

amothersplaceisinthewrong Thu 07-Feb-13 22:05:53

I hope he still gets rid of coursework - I think thethre hour exam at the end of the two year course (as in the old "O" levels) is far better. They were never just a memory test, yes they suited brighter children better, but so what?

TalkinPeace2 Thu 07-Feb-13 22:06:17

To all those who say multiple exam boards create grade inflation
there were even more exam boards back when grades were on Normal distribution

political pressure created grade inflation.

Regarding exams I just don't think it's really appreciated how variable people's memories and short term memory ability can be. In fact I don't think Gove appreciates any such diversity or non neurotypical (NNT) variance at all. It just doesn't seem to figure on his radar.

So, mother's place it's not just that they suited brighter children better, that's not my problem with them. I did OK in my O levels, though better in my A's as there was less to remember and more to understand. I went to a good RG Uni too. But I think there's a lot of stress on people at exam time especially if they don't find cramming lots of info comes easily to them. I think I'd like to see more "open book" exams so English Lit with the texts available, and Physics with a sheet of useful equations - at least for some of the papers.

ravenAK Thu 07-Feb-13 22:41:12

Coursework went 3 years ago.

Eng Lit is open book.

<as you were chaps!> smile

Oh well thanks for that raven - I loved English literature but could never remember which act and scene all my carefully remembered quotes were from sad It wasn't open book in my day ! So, glad it will be for my DC's smile

TheVipperofVipp Fri 08-Feb-13 06:17:29

JugglingFromHereToThere, you asked upthread "Remind me someone ... what subjects are included in the (continuing) EBacc?"

From The Guardian website on replacing the EBacc measure in league tables:

In its place will come a..."value added" measure taking in pupils' progress up to their GCSE in eight subjects from three areas –
English and maths;
Three subjects from the sciences, history and geography, languages and computer science;
and three "additional subjects", taking in arts and "high quality vocational subjects".

So it does seem much wider than the previous EBacc measure. HTH.

TheVipperofVipp Fri 08-Feb-13 06:30:35

Also, it won't be based on acheiving a C or above in these subjects, but "an average point score showing how much progress every student makes between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4" across the 8 subjects.

(This is just the league table measure, as said, VERY confusing both the new, now scrapped, exam and the league table measure were both called EBacc...)

WENDYEG57 Fri 08-Feb-13 07:11:22

Halelujah! maybe there is a God in heaven after all. I was so concerned at the marginalisation (or complete abandonment) of the arts in the proposed EBAC. Mr Gove said that young people should learn to appreciate great works of art. No Mr Gove-they should be creating them.

jamdonut Fri 08-Feb-13 08:16:44

Well at least my daughter should have a job in the future!. She wants to be a senior school music teacher! It has been a battle for her (and some of her friends) to be able to take music as an option at GCSE, as she has been forced down the "eBacc" pathway.

It makes me mad that Music is not considered an academic subject. Have you seen what they have to achieve? I couldn't do it , and I'm not stupid!

My 2 youngest children have been on the receiving end of so many changes during their educational career. It doesn't seem fair.

Thanks for that summary Vipper - very helpful !

Agree about music jamdonut - my DS(11) is working towards his grade 5 music theory which his teacher says is a similar standard to GCSE and it is fiendish ! Then for GCSE I think there's either the opportunity or requirement to play an instrument to quite a high standard as well. Then probably some music appreciation and history too ? I had a quick look at the music page in DD's options booklet, but more with a mind to what DS might choose too. We'd already chosen DD's subjects, so DS thought he'd have a go at choosing his 3 as well ! He's thinking Music, Art, and PE - Hmm, I'm not sure he'll get away with no history or geography - but we'll have to see ! hmm

Also where are they putting RS (or RE) in that list ? I'd have thought it would lie more naturally with history and geography as a humanity subject ? But are they including it in the "additional subjects" ? - in which case it should get a mention ? as "taking in arts and high quality vocational subjects" doesn't really cover it. Also PE - could be a very useful subject eg If my DS might want to be a primary teacher or sports coach ? (so I guess could count as vocational subject ?) But also important for all our young people to be keeping active and taking part in sport ? (especially with a rising national obesity problem ?)

Xenia Fri 08-Feb-13 10:26:37

Some of mine have done music and 3 won music scholarship, almost full marks in grade 5 theory at 12 etc.. I always loved music theory and almost got full marks, distinction in grade 8 theory - my misspent youth as a teenager.. laughing as I type...

My list above was the core 9 GCSEs most pupils at academic schools will do.There is no reason music or RE cannot be one of your 9 or 10 GCSEs but no reason aslso if you're quite bright you cannot do your english lang, eng lit, maths, a language or two, 2 or 3 sciences and history and geog. That is a rounded list. If a child is not particularly bright then they may struggle to pass basic maths and English and probably should be prioritising that as they are so important in most jobs - biggest problem Tesco finds with recruits is basic adding up and written and spoken English.

newgirl Fri 08-Feb-13 11:32:23

in what world was RE not a humanity? surely it is the definition of a humanity subject! it was fantastic o and a level choice for me that helped me get a good uni place to do english. Just thought I'd throw that in. I'm not religious either 0 just fascinated.

glad new scheme abandoned

Erebus Fri 08-Feb-13 11:51:03

I am seeing a lot of confusion on here about the E. Bacc (English Baccalaureate) and the EBC (English Baccalareate Certificate) exams Gove wanted to replace GCSEs with.

They are 2 separate things. Don't confuse them.

The E.Bacc isn't a qualification, it is a school league table measure brought in with no notice 2 or so years ago. That's the one that requires a DC to have 5 GCSE passes inc Maths, Eng, Science, MFL, and either history or geography. This measure, to the very best of my knowledge has not been scrapped so your Y9 DC may find that suddenly they can't just change their preferences as the school still needs to perform in the E.Bacc league table.

The EBC was a totally different, new exam system, akin to changing O levels and CSEs into GCSEs.

Now, I am no fan of Gove whatsoever BUT, consider this:

Cos he can't have his EBC exams, instead he is 'tightening up' GCSEs, making them more rigorous and 'linear' as opposed to modular. This means that your Y9 DC will have to be 'better' in order to get an A or B than a DC who sat the GCSE say last year, whose grade may well have been achieved through modular resits and needing to only be in the top 20% to get that A. Your Y9 will have to sit down over maybe 2 exams and be examined on 2 years work in one hit, needing to be maybe in the top 8-10% to get that A.

5 years hence, an employer or even slightly lazy college course Admissions person will see one DC as having done better than the other, in other words, the one who did the 'easier' GCSE.

I actually would rather they had changed the name of the exam to indicate that it's testing different qualities at a different level, myself! I am an old O level fogey and it took a while for young upstarts with their 13 GCSEs all at grade A (but who couldn't spell 'committee' and couldn't even vaguely demonstrate where Nepal was on a map, or do a percentage calculation etc etc!) to recognise that my 8 O levels, 3 A, 2 Bs, 3 Cs were every bit their 'equal'!

What Gove should have done is to propose these changes, investigate them, trial them, heed expert advice- not weigh in with 'OK, I'm in charge, this is what's going to happen in 2 years time, syllabus starting this September (as yet unwritten, mind...) whether you like it or not' which has caused antagonism and an increasing belief that the bloke's an idiot- and made him look like a prize twerp for having to U turn. Again.

And he's chucked the baby out with the bathwater regarding Exam Boards- maybe the most sensible idea in there- so schools can't shop around.

I'd like to see grade A's going to only the most able DCs, but a sliding scale to allow the DC heading for an apprenticeship to demonstrate a good, solid, but not terribly sophisticated working knowledge of that subject. Dare I say 'like a CSE used to'?! I mean, actually, they are already doing this via the tiered exams, aren't they? Where you can only get a top mark of a C in the lower paper. I don't know how different the syllabus is between the tiers but I know the CSE syllabi were quite different to the O levels as a few of us were entered for both at my GS in 1978.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 12:42:23


1. The current EBacc performance measure requires 2 sciences. Not one. But this is going to be replaced by a new performance measure which will be based on pupils’ average scores across a suite of 8 qualifications. The 8 qualifications counted in the measure will be English, mathematics, 3 further English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, and 3 other high value qualifications – EBacc, other academic, arts or vocational.' At this point no further specifics are known in particular how many sciences will be required and what will be the critera for the 'other high value qualification' designation.

2. Many many young people do terminal GCSEs now.

3. I do not agree that 8 O levels at the grades you quote are 'equal' to 13 GCSEs all at A (or A* grade come to that) grade. I have 10 O levels all at grade A and I don't think my qualifications are any better than those of the top kids today. While some of the exams today are indeed 'easier' (maths and french) many of them are much more onerous (eg music, english, history, geography)

4. The idea about scrapping the various exam boards and introducing a monopoly body was not only not sensible it was also probably contrary to EU law.

Donki Fri 08-Feb-13 12:58:57

I'm far from convinced that this is a U-turn. As far as I can see, the only things that have changed are that they will still be called GCSE's, and each subject won't be put out to tender for a single exam board.

The rest is just the same as the original proposal - and with the same ridiculously tight timetable for implementation.

Gove levels just without the label change.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 13:03:37

No, there is a certain amount of u turn because the previous proposals would have introduced two tiers of qualifications - EBCs and GCSEs and downgraded a whole (extremely) important sphere of education - arts subjects. Now, the exams for arts subjects will still have exactly the same status as the exams for non arts subjects (assuming that music, art, drama GCSE are given the status of 'other high value qualifications'. This is a massive thing for arts ed.

The move back to multiple exam boards is a U turn too. Albeit an enforced one.

You are right that there is little u turn as to the contents of the syllabus for some of the subjects which were going to be EBCs.


^"We must stop politicians constantly tinkering around with education and
using our kids as guinea pigs."^

And this

"Regarding exams I just don't think it's really appreciated how variable people's memories and short term memory ability can be. In fact I don't think Gove appreciates any such diversity or non neurotypical (NNT) variance at all. It just doesn't seem to figure on his radar."

As a tutor, I am so glad that Gove has been made to see sense changed his mind!

Erebus Fri 08-Feb-13 13:24:28

I was being facetious about '13 A grade GCSEs, actually! The person concerned certainly has 13 of them but readily admits to a massive number of resits and 'equivalents'- and how much modular work they were 'helped' with... hmm

O levels and those style of GCSEs don't measure the same thing.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 13:28:28

You do realise that many many young people do not take 'equivalents', do not do 'a massive number of resits' and don't have 'help' with 'modular work'?

You haven't really done your research, have you. sad

TalkinPeace2 Fri 08-Feb-13 13:34:39

There were MORE exam boards in the 1970's than there are now.
Exam boards were not the problem,
removal of Normal distribution grading and political pressure to show improvement was.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 13:41:46

Talkin - don't forget the pressure to be more attractive to students. This is a big component in the reduction in standards in mfl and maths. Luckily in most other subjects the standards are significantly higher than they were back in the day - unfortunately Gove seems determined to turn the clock back in History and possibly in geog too (I'm not certain about that - the minute he mentioned map reading I had a pavlovian reaction and I missed the rest of what he sad about geog)

TalkinPeace2 Fri 08-Feb-13 13:45:28

Russians you're saying that to the wrong person, I have a Geography degree and adore maps!

But yes, Gove should just BUTT OUT of curriculum choices as he does not know his shit.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 13:48:18

Presumably though there is more to geog than being able to read an OS map? I wondered if he was trying to move kids away from learning about things like climate change by focussing instead on identifying steeples etc.....? The mention of capital cities etc also seemed to be a bit old fashioned. Obviously very useful in a game of triv but unless he is suggesting that many more kids go the route of earning their living via quiz machines ........

noblegiraffe Fri 08-Feb-13 13:48:42

Normal distribution grading is a terrible way to grade exams as it doesn't actually tell you what the students can do, merely how they compared to their peers in any given year. Cohorts perform better as exams get bedded into the curriculum, 'grade inflation' is not the only reason that results go up.

Incidentally, with norm-referenced grading, the number of students passing O-level maths doubled in the first few years, 100% increase in pass rate, how's that for grade inflation?

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 13:52:41

Didn't the numbers taking maths go up too, though, hmm?

The most useful (for all users) of exam grading would be to combine both criteria marking and norm referencing. Especially when you are talking about an exam which is supposed to be accessible to practically everyone and where you have an expected minimum acceptable attainment.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 08-Feb-13 13:54:44

That early year statistical blip was due to the standard of pupils coming up through the schools as the brand new system bedded in.
A statistical anomaly of change, nothing to do with the normal distribution.

noblegiraffe Fri 08-Feb-13 14:06:59

It was due to the number of students taking the exam doubling. As this doubling in number was probably due in part to students joining from the bottom end, it seems unlikely that standards were maintained. As I said, norm-referencing only gives you a comparison against that year's particular cohort. Some year groups will be weaker than others.

As an aside, GCSEs aren't completely criterion-referenced, from what I understand, pass marks are set and approved with an eye on what percentage pass rate they will give.

cumfy Fri 08-Feb-13 14:11:45

Normal distribution grading is a terrible way to grade exams as it doesn't actually tell you what the students can do, merely how they compared to their peers in any given year.

Sorry this is nonsense, norm-referencing is by far, easily the best way to grade.

The great thing about having 100,000s of pupils taking the exam each year is that the mean and distribution of ability of each year cohort is indistinguishably different year to year. It is therefore almost axiomatic that the mean and distribution are the best and indeed extremely accurate references.

I really can't understand why anyone would prefer other grading systems

(BTW University degrees are different where maybe only 50-100 students take exams on a particular course and there can be significant inter-year variability of mean and distribution of ability.)

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 14:15:46

Any exam where the grade boundaries are determined after all the raw marks are in is very unlikely to be wholly criterion referenced. Any exam where the grade boundaries is set before the raw marks are in cannot be anything other than criterion referenced, by definition, even if they set the criteria in the hope or expectation that they would give a certain result.

AIUI the grade boundaries for controlled assessments, ISAs etc may not yet have been set (although maybe teachers don't know them but they have already been agreed). If the boundaries were set before the marks were in and there was no procedure to fiddle with them if they didn't like the result that they gave, then they would be purely criterion referenced. If the boundaries were set before the marks were in and some (but not all) of them were fiddled with afterwards then they would still be criterion referenced but the criterion would be completely different and there might be an element of norm referencing. Grades can only be wholly norm referenced if their boundaries are derived with respect to the normal distribution once all the marks are in.

merrymouse Fri 08-Feb-13 14:21:37

But I thought we wanted pupils to get better at Maths year on year - how will we know if they do?

ReallyTired Fri 08-Feb-13 14:25:36

I think that GCSEs and A-levels are in desperate need of scrapping. We are expecting our children to stay on until 18 years old and GCSEs were a system set up when most children left school at 16.

However it is a good thing that the brakes are put on. We need a system that is carefully thought out and will recongise vocational learning as well as academic learning. We also need new qualifications to encourage children to study maths and English who can't cope/ or don't want to do A-levels in these subjects. The replacement for GCSEs needs to be carefully designed in consultation with universities, teachers, employers as well as the general public.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 14:28:48

No 'we' clearly don't want pupils to get better at maths year on year. We want pupils to take maths at A level. At some point after the introduction of the GCSE they realised the only way they could do this would be to make maths A level easier. There was a consequential adjustment to the level of maths skill and knowledge required for Maths GCSE (although that didn't necessarily make maths GCSE easier, it made it narrower in scope. Some of the things that were taken out were easier than the things left in).

Maths and mfl are specific cases though, where there was a political (and economic) imperative to get more kids with some level of qualification in these areas, that would be more economically useful than no level of qualification. The other subjects by and large seem to be far more searching and rigorous (difficult probably isn't the right word) than 20 or so years ago. Gove doesn't accept that of course. But he's wrong.

cumfy Fri 08-Feb-13 14:33:03

But I thought we wanted pupils to get better at Maths year on year - how will we know if they do?

By recruiting people of different ages at random to take exams and comparing their school grades with their performance on the exam.

Other than by doing something like this you really can't.

ReallyTired Fri 08-Feb-13 14:41:44

More and more children are taking maths early. When I was at school hardly anyone took maths early. Now more able children are taking maths in year 9.

Maybe having a functional qualification that children take when they are ready is good and the really clever kids could do GCSE functional maths at 14 and GCSE further maths at 16. Average intelligence children who take the functional qualification at 16 could do GCSE further maths in sixth form and the clever kids could do A-level maths. The low ablity kids could do GCSE functional maths at 18.

I expect I shall be totally flamed now for suggesting that children vary dramatically in mathematical ablity.

mummytime Fri 08-Feb-13 14:45:28

Cumfy do you think that you haven't learnt anything since your school days? I got a C at O'level Maths in the old days, I am totally confident that if I sat the same paper I would get an A. I could also get straight A's at GCSE, and am surprised when helping my DS how well A'level comes back.

However O'level and GCSE test different things. O'level was much more about regurgitating facts, GCSE is much more about understanding and applying.

noblegiraffe Fri 08-Feb-13 14:51:43

russians, not sure where you got your info about gcse maths being made easier in order to get more people to take A-level. That would surely make A-level more inaccessible as students would be inadequately prepared? One of the major problems with GCSE maths was the switch to 2 tier in 2006 but that's because the higher exam became less rigorous as it needed to cover more content, not because content was removed.

A-level maths was made easier in 2005, with some of its content being moved to further maths, but that was because of a disastrous dip in A-level uptake due to A-level maths being made too difficult under the Curriculum 2000 changes, and not to do with GCSE.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 15:05:09

Where do I get my info? I'm a cambridge maths grad (which means nothing except I understand what is being talked about and am interested enough to listen instead of drifting off to talk about other things and the BILs assume I will be interested in talking with them about things mathsy when we all meet up) with a BIL who is a maths prof and another BIL who is a maths examiner. I'm obviously not going to say which board or which uni smile

GCSE was made narrower because some GCSE topics were moved into the A level syllabus to replace to 'difficult' topics which were dumped from that. I've seen you deny this on MN before but it's a fact - maybe not for the particular board that you teach but for others, it definitely is. I can understand that as a maths teacher you don't like people saying that your subject is not as difficult as it once was but to deny it is futile really - since it's true. It's not the fault of maths teachers - in fact, they are doing a great job considering the fiddling the government have done with their subject and the criticism they pick up from practically everyone for things that aren't their fault (I also have maths teacher friends some of whom I have known since uni).

noblegiraffe Fri 08-Feb-13 15:12:58

I've never denied that maths topics have been moved from GCSE to A-level confused, I'm asking you where you got your info from because I'm interested to see the details as I am unaware of them and googling 'gcse maths content moved to A-level' hasn't given any answers. Neither have you!

jamdonut Fri 08-Feb-13 16:29:46

JugglingFromHereToThere Yes, My daughter achieved her Grade 5 Theory a couple of years ago. She was told it is harder than GCSE ,more like an AS level. It took her two attempts to pass (She missed it by a couple of marks the first time!)

merrymouse Fri 08-Feb-13 16:40:44

No 'we' clearly don't want pupils to get better at maths year on year.

But if (according to another thread I am on) 46% of pupils don't achieve a grade C at Maths GCSE and below a C is seen as a fail, are we happy to continue grading 46% of people as failures, even if maths standards are/were improving?

(or have I missed something here)

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 17:20:07

Students need to leave school, with qualifications they can be justifiably proud of, and that employers will actually respect.

I fail to see the point of endless students leaving school with handfuls of empty GCSEs, that basically all spell F.U.D.G.E.

GCSEs need to be tightened up - and vocational courses need to be beefed-up and made more much widely available.

I have worked in schools, and have friends/relatives who are teachers of 20+ years experience. What constituted an A 20 years ago, is most certainly not what constitutes an A nowadays.

Up until very recently, endless students at my friend's top comp were swaggering out with an A* in GCSE Maths...only to fall horribly at the first fence, when they attempted A Level Maths. The gulf was far too big.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 17:26:13

LaQueen, yes in maths. Not in English, or history, or music, or RE. Or most of the other subjects. It is possible to argue over whether the history curriculum of now is narrower or deeper than the curriculum of 30 years ago but certainly more is asked of the students in terms of the skills and knowledge they are required to demonstrate. Much more. Even if you do believe the scope of the area of study is narrower or less 'valid' (personally, I'm sad they don't do all the industrial revolution stuff I did and I don't see the point of learning about the American West at all - but I'm sure other people think history of medicine or lurgy through the ages or whatever it's called is very interesting and that the American West is more important than, say, Jethro Tull's seed drill). They have to do a lot more writing, a lot more research and use skills we didn't even have to develop when I was doing history O level, let alone be assessed on.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 17:34:01

To add, I was chatting to my BIL who teaches English Lit at a good comp - he informed me, that even his top set weren't even required to actually read Macbeth, from start to finish hmm

It was felt, the students would find it too labour intensive hmm

And, instead students were encouraged to access the play in other ways - other than actually bleddy reading it through FFS angry

How, how, how has that been allowed to happen???

QuickLookBusy Fri 08-Feb-13 17:43:14

LaQueen, I would assume your BIL meant that MacBeth was only being used as an extra reference.

Both my DDs have done GCSe (and A level) English. If they were studying say An Inspector Calls, they had to know that play inside out, they read it, saw it at the theatre etc. they also dipped in and out of other plays/works by the same author, inorder to provide other references for exam questions.

There is no way a child could get an A grade if they had hadn't read and analysed the play from cover to cover.

GrowSomeCress Fri 08-Feb-13 17:46:00

LaQueen I only had to read one compulsory novel for my entire english GCSE over two years, and some people didn't bother to read it and looked at the extracts the teachers gave us and did well anyway.

For all our coursework texts, we were just told "oh you don't need to read it just look at these few extracts"


A disaster, I agree with you

QuickLookBusy Fri 08-Feb-13 17:51:29

I'd would really like to hear from some teachers on here to see of my DD's school is an exception or the rule. confused

Grow when did you do your GCSE?

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 18:01:05

You wouldn't need to read the whole of a Shakespeare play if you're doing it for Eng Lit Controlled Assessment, no.

You'd be watching at least one performance (with Macbeth I'd compare the Polanski & a fantastic modern dress version called 'Macbeth on the Estate'). Then you'd spend a couple of weeks analysing the language of a decent length extract in far more detail & at far greater depth than I spent on entire play scripts for O-Level.

Then you'd write an essay comparing this key scene with another text, usually a poem. You do need to show confident knowledge of the play as a complete text, but this doesn't mean reading every word.

We don't do Macbeth for GCSE, we do it in y8. Our GCSE Shakespeare text is R&J, comparing Act I scene 5 with 'To His Coy Mistress'. I can assure you that our most able candidates wring every nuance out of both...

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 18:01:06

QLB no, Macbeth is the set exam text - and he freely admitted that none of the students, not even in the top set, were expected to actually sit and read the play through, scene for scene.

He works at what is considered a good comprehensive, in a non grammar school county (so it's not a secondary modern).

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 18:02:35

What would they gain by sitting & reading it through, LaQueen?

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 18:04:02

raven back in the day, I did Macbeth...we had to read the entire play, word for word. We also watched a live performance, referenced various other sources and did lengthy indepth study of umpteen scenes of the play.

It is possible to both read the whole play and study it at depth, I think. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 18:08:10

Oh, I don't know Raven maybe a cohesive impression of the entire play? Perhaps an accurate perception of the time-line of the play? Maybe acheive a greater familiarity with the language?

Less than 10 years ago, I took a class studying Wuthering Heights, they'd been studying it for 6 weeks already...10 minutes into my lesson, they were all looking at me like this hmm ...turns out, that not one of them knew there were actually 2 Cathy's in the book.

You see, they hadn't had to read the book all the way through, just read a synopsis, and studied certain chapters, and somehow assumed that Cathy was the same Cathy all the way through...

Chaos and confusion...

QuickLookBusy Fri 08-Feb-13 18:13:39

Gosh I'm shocked the top sets aren't expected to read through the whole text.

At my DDs comp they certainly were expected to do so.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 08-Feb-13 18:24:05

The link in the OP said:

There will be a new eight-subject measure of GCSEs, including English and maths, three subjects out of sciences, languages, history and geography and three other subjects, such as art, music or RE.

Eh? English and maths fine. But only three out of all sciences (according to last weeks news including computer science), hist, geog and lang? Surely a bright kid will be doing at least 4 out of thoseconfused and then three 'other subjects'...fine to insist on an arty thing( art, music drama) and maybe a tech subject (which is where comp science should go) but the balance there sounds very odd. maybe the report is wrong. Not that it matters to pupils, its just league table metric.

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 18:24:23

Not a cohesive impression of the entire play, no. Because it'd take you at least a couple of weeks to read it round the class, glossing a substantial proportion of it as you go, which isn't actually what Shakespeare had in mind for appreciation of his work...

Bear in mind also that not every teenager is a confident & expressive sight reader of iambic pentameter with abundant archaic vocabulary. Not many adults are!

You can understand the play as a cohesive text far better by watching a performance in 'real time'. Although I usually start with a drama improv of the plotline & characters - after 20 minutes, with no prior exposure, my bottom set year 9 could confidently explain exactly what happens in Othello & why.

As for the language, the sort of thing we're looking for these days, is, to give a fairly example, a page long detailed exposition on the symbolism, alliteration, onomatopoeia & foreshadowing contained in the phrase 'so shows a snowy dove trooping with crows'.

Familiarity & understanding aren't at all the same thing, as your 'Wuthering Heights' example demonstrates. Why hadn't they drawn a family tree of characters or a storyboard of the plotline? It's not difficult to teach plot & character, but language analysis is a bit more demanding.

I'm not saying reading whole Shakespeare plays is a bad thing, you understand, given sufficient time. Just that we do have quite a lot to get through in 5 terms to cover two GCSEs, so we have to go in fast, teach some quite high level skills pretty quickly, & move on to applying them to the next text.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 18:45:35

@Quicklook I'm not a teacher but DD1 has read her set books/plays many times. She does indeed know them inside out. She's had to do far more work on them then I had to do for English Lit O level (and I overkilled what I did then, too)

cumfy Fri 08-Feb-13 18:51:36

I'm probably being a bit thick .....

How can students simply not read the text ?

Surely questions could be on any aspect of the play.

What happens when an exam question is on a bit they've not read ?

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 18:53:28

'And, instead students were encouraged to access the play in other ways - other than actually bleddy reading it through FFS
How, how, how has that been allowed to happen???'

New Labour, New Labour, New Labour?

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 18:54:03

I have a problem with the idea that geography should pay quite so much attention to cities and rivers of the world. Obviously it's desirable to have a decent working knowledge of topography, but instead of learning that the Nile runs through much of Africa and that the Rhine runs through France, Germany and the Netherlands, would it not be far more useful to learn about flood plains, erosion and sedimentation, the impact of rivers on landscape and agriculture, irrigation systems, disaster management and the importance of rivers in trade? That's how we learned about rivers in geography in the 80s - across the boundaries of geology and social geography.

I also think Michael Gove's elimination of the EU from the curriculum is just spiteful and petty.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 18:56:25

'a fantastic modern dress version called 'Macbeth on the Estate'

I'm not aware of this one. Is this down wid da kidz?

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 19:01:42

cumfy and claig the whole point of working with the play in the way raven suggests is that it is not necessary to memorise whole chunks. If a pupil sits through an uncut stage production of the play and does substantive work on the language, historical background etc. and then does an open book exam, you can ask the kind of questions that require real understanding of what Shakespeare is about. You can ask a candidate to look at a specific section of the play (which they may indeed not have read) and expect them to be able to use the skills and understanding gained in class to write a coherent and relevant essay-style answer about this piece of text. This demonstrates a far better grasp of the play than just regurgitating bits of it does.

As raven pointed out, the majority of adults today have not read a complete Shakespeare play - and they seem to manage perfectly well not having done so. As it happens I've read several Shakespeare plays in full since leaving school, but I am under no illusion that this makes me a better IT person, a better mother or a better citizen. I do however have the ability to understand various older forms of the English language, having learned this at school in Holland where we certainly did not read entire Shakespeare plays but used all the methods described by raven to very good effect.

I am so, so weary of this view that traditional = better.

merrymouse Fri 08-Feb-13 19:02:11

Huh? Top set eng lit students aren't expected to read all of a Shakespeare play? I can understand not having time to read it through in class, but surely they could read it at home?

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 19:05:41

Not these days, claig. It's been around a while. It's v good though. Modern dress, language as wot Will wrote.

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 19:06:53

Oh claig. Low blow there, you are normally such an intelligent, reasoned poster. <shakes head>

Are you really saying that modern dress versions of Shakespeare set in modern times but dealing with the same thematic material have no value? I'd hate to live in a world where every performance of, say, King Lear was exactly the same. I've seen three different ones, two were modern. All were brilliant.

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 19:09:49

I'm talking about Shakespeare for CA, btw - our students do a different play each year, throughout KS3, so they do very much 'get it' by their GCSE course.

AQA do do an alternative route through GCSE Eng Lit using Shakespeare as an exam text, & then yes, you would need to read the whole thing (& omit something else in the exam - post 1914 prose I think, in which case you'd do that as CA, probably on an extract.)

I volunteered to examine it last year - bored with endlessly marking OM&M & Lord of the Flies! - but it's not popular, so AQA said no ta, they'd prefer me to stick to modern prose!

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 19:10:01

Fair point.
But do these modern versions use Shakespeare's language?

cumfy Fri 08-Feb-13 19:11:10

You can ask a candidate to look at a specific section of the play (which they may indeed not have read) and expect them to be able to use the skills and understanding gained in class to write a coherent and relevant essay

But surely a candidate who has read that section previously, has a significant advantage over one that hasn't ?

On the other hand what is the weighting of exams v continuous assessment in Eng Lit ?

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 19:12:34

'It's v good though. Modern dress, language as wot Will wrote.'

OK, that is good that they use the same language.

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 19:17:33

The weighting's 30% Shakespeare & the Literary Heritage CA (eg we do'Compare how the language of love & seduction are used in I,v of R&J & To His Coy Mistress' - 4 hour open book, exam conditions).

Then 35% Modern Prose (we do The Woman In Black - & yes, we read all of it!) & Other Cultures (just about everyone does Of Mice & Men, I can confidently say having marked 500 essays on Curley's Wife last June) .

& finally 35% poetry - one question on any two of fifteen poems, some modern, some pre-1914; & another question on an unseen poem.

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 19:21:00

cumfy that's true up to a point, but I really think that at 16 they should be able to make an informed decision to read the whole play at home - or not. And having said that, I am not at all sure that a single read-through of the whole play will make that much of a difference - the idea of an open book exam set against the background of this kind of teaching is to test the ability of a candidate to use what they have learned on material which is new to them - there are ways in which you can set the questions to make sure these are the skills which are tested. It makes marking more challenging, but that is a matter of implementing a system in which marking is done by qualified subject teachers, not by students doing piecework.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 19:22:10

I think GCSE English is better than O level English in some ways. I don't remember doing poetry and I don't think we covered as much width, but may have had more depth. Can't remember exactly.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 19:27:21

Raven back in my day (old gimmer) copies of Macbeth were handed out and were told to have read the entire play by the next week. We had to read it as homework, then the lessons started with the assumption that the class had a least a rough working knowledge of the play, time-line, overall plot etc.

Granted some kids were better at reading the language than others - but, at least all students made a determined effort to read it...rather than being informed form the outset 'that it's too complicated.'

It's only by being constantly exposed to Shakespeare's langauge, that children can gain more familiarity with it, I think?

I fully appreciate that Shakespeare certainly didn't write his plays to be read - and that ideally they should always be watched, and performed.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 19:29:47

Ahem...I'd just like to point out, that plenty of people were able to read the entire play through, memorize big chunks in order to regurgitate them and also possess an in-depth understanding of the play/analysis/textual comprehension etc.

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 19:30:14

That's my claig!

I think teaching poetry is essential. Not learning it off by heart, but teaching children to think about what they're reading, processing it intellectually and emotionally as well.

ravenAK Fri 08-Feb-13 19:37:23

The reason for not reading the whole thing would definitely not be because the language was too complicated! & our kids are indeed constantly exposed to it. My low ability year 9s are currently transfixed by Othello...

I think I may be an old gimmer also. My grammar school would ask us to read entire Shakespeare plays as homework too. I'm not sure it aided our comprehension, & I'm quite sure it sucked an awful lot of the joy out of it.

Plenty of people are indeed able to do all of the above. I'm inclined to question the value of the reading every word & memorising big chunks, though, & it's definitely possible to analyse in depth without it. As pointythings explained, it's about developing a skill set which can then be usefully applied elsewhere.

Mind you, my year 11s are amusingly gobsmacked at my ability to recite vast swathes of all our set texts by rote - they've accused me of having a concealed autocue! grin. But their understanding is definitely far better than mine was when I got my grade A O-Level...

Abra1d Fri 08-Feb-13 19:44:29

'Bear in mind also that not every teenager is a confident & expressive sight reader of iambic pentameter with abundant archaic vocabulary. Not many adults are!.'

So we have to reduce study to the ability level of the less intelligent?

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 19:47:25

Sorry, pressed enter too soon...

I just don't see why people seem to think you can either have read the play page for page, and just be robotic and only able to quote chunks of it or not have read the play through, but be able to do all sorts of tricksy, clever analysis of parts of it - and show much greater sensitivity/understanding?

Back in my day, there were people who could do both and that was what got them an A.

I'm all for as many people as possible gaining even just a smidge of Shakespeare - whatever it takes.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 19:55:30

'Back in my day, there were people who could do both and that was what got them an A.'

I think Gove was certainly capable of doing both and then some! I don't have the same feeling about the New Labour elite! I am not sure if they were capable of either!

Gove seems to want to restore rogour and end New Labour dumbing down.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 19:56:03

@pointy I guess Claig would disapprove of the David Tennant Much Ado and Hamlets, then. sad Also the Ian McKellan Coriolanus. I have no idea whether Othello at the NT this summer will be modern dress or period. But I doubt it will matter. I'm fairly sure my kids will get a better experience of shakespeare by seeing this than by reading Othello (although they will read it, too - two of them already have).

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 19:59:04

Abra1d I am inclined to agree.

I think the powers that be, probably acted with the best of intentions years ago, and thought 'Hey, let's make this so that just about every child, regardless of ability, can access Shakespeare, even if it's in a really basic, Bard-By-Numbers fashion - we'll get rid of the dreary stuff that can be hard to get your head around, and we'll replace it with diulted, more sparkly ways of studying it. Let's go'

And, I can see why they did it. I really can.

But, I think along the way the pendulum swung too far, and swathes of 16 year olds thought they'd studied Macbeth, because they'd read Lady Macbeth's famous speech, seen a DVD performance, and designed recipes for the witches' cauldron complete with illustrations...

And, yes they had studied it...but only to the level that previous 12 year olds would have done...because just about everyone could access Macbeth at the kinda level, couldn't they?

So...job done.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 20:00:50

We did lots of poetry when I did O level English lit. Ballads. The Rime of the ancient mariner, Peter Grimes, Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Linn, and....some others I can't remember. NOT the ballad of reading goal which was a big shame. there was one called Edmund Edmund which was vicious. The poetry section was brilliant, to be honest. And I think we worked hard but not any harder than the top kids today.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 20:02:16

I saw a rather good performance of Measure for Measure, done in modern street dress at The Swan years ago...but, I must admit it did jar somewhat that the language was Shakespearean, just seemed a bit incongruous, but interestingly so.

LaQueen Fri 08-Feb-13 20:04:46

"I think Gove was certainly capable of doing both and then some! I don't have the same feeling about the New Labour elite! I am not sure if they were capable of either!"

No, but instead the New Labour elite send their children to the very independent/private schools which offer a more traditionalist approach to studying, and which have a far higher than average Oxbridge acceptance... hmm

Sooooo dumb it down for all the kids...just not my kids, ta very much.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 20:06:09

Gove is a Gradgrind. He shows no appreciation of the arts (including drama) at all. I seriously doubt whether he got an A for his O level English lit.

I'm in a good position to compare since DD1 is doing her GCSEs this summer and is an A* student in English. She has to do more than I did. Both in quantity terms of assessed work (whether by exam or controlled assessment) and in qualitative terms regarding the skills required. I think in raw knowledge terms, the amount of memorising is about the same.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 20:07:57

Making the English syllabus accessible to students of all abilities (and talented dedicated teachers finding innovative ways of teaching so that disengaged kids have a change of engaging) is not the same as dumbing it down. Clearly some people have serious problems with either the understanding or use of English.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Fri 08-Feb-13 20:10:36

You had the same selecton as I did Russian!

I didn't enjoy it so much! however, I did love the twentieth century short stories and also To kill a mockingbird. I hated Henry the forth part one though.

I agree, I think students work just as hard today. I also think it is really very hard and unfair to try to make comparisons based on very little understanding of what is actually involved with the courses.

Gove may be capable of doing both but that doesn't stop him being an utter ass when it comes to Education.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 20:13:09

'Gove is a Gradgrind. He shows no appreciation of the arts (including drama) at all. I seriously doubt whether he got an A for his O level English lit.'

I am not sure what he got for English, but I have no doubt that he got an A for Latin. The man speaks Latin as if it was his mother tongue and I wouldn't be surpised if he expects the same of today's yoof.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 20:15:47

'Clearly some people have serious problems with either the understanding or use of English.'

But why should everybody suffer for New Labour's deficiencies?

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 20:42:51

I rest my case.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 20:43:38

Or, as a wise man once said 'Ipsa that'. grin

pointythings Fri 08-Feb-13 20:44:46

Spoke too soon, claig the Gove-worshipper is back.

Can't you see that Gove is trying to recreate what worked for him (and not for the majority of children who, back then, could go to unskilled but valuable factory jobs which no longer exist today)?

It is not acceptable to return to an education system which only serves a minority. I'd have a little more sympathy for Gove if he were putting forward proposals to create a vocational education system which would foster a generation of skilled engineers, electricians, builders, carpenters, and which would properly value those skills instead of brushing them aside as 'not academic'. But he isn't doing that - and that tells me that he simply does not care about high quality education for everyone.

A substantial number of business leaders contacted Gove about their concerns that narrowing the curriculum in this way would not give them the young people they needed in the workplace - and these people are natural Conservative allies.
Learning has moved on. There is no one size fits all solution, there are many different ways to learn effectively, not just one. Gove refuses to see this.

There is definitely a case to be made for improving GCSEs, and I don't see any teachers on here saying that everything in state education is perfect. However, throwing out the entire system, refusing to pilot it - that speaks of an immense arrogance that I don't care for. Michael Gove doesn't care about education, he cares about political advancement - succeeding David Cameron, being Prime Minister. He is not to be trusted.

As for speaking fluent Latin - nice party trick, useful if you want to read Catullus in the original, but not particularly useful in the world of work. It also does not signify an innate brilliance, just a facility for languages. Some people have it, others don't - doesn't make one type of person more worthy, or intellectually advanced, than another.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 21:45:07

'Or, as a wise man once said 'Ipsa that'.'

I bet that man was Gove!

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 08-Feb-13 22:04:57

It would appear that Gove is not alone in lacking a cultural hinterland.

claig Fri 08-Feb-13 22:06:25

I am glad that GCSEs are here to stay.

I think Gove may have been guilty of acting like a bull in a china shop.

There is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Throwing New Labour out was enough!

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, fixing a few spokes is enough.

ravenAK Sat 09-Feb-13 01:56:47

Abra1d "'Bear in mind also that not every teenager is a confident & expressive sight reader of iambic pentameter with abundant archaic vocabulary. Not many adults are!.'

So we have to reduce study to the ability level of the less intelligent?"

No, not at all - you're conflating performing ability with comprehension. My 8 year old ds did a fantastic barnstorm through 'Now is the winter of our discontent...' earlier this week. He's a Plantagenet geek, currently obsessed with the discovery of Richard III, & I gave him the speech to have a crack at because I thought it would be fun.

Does he understand all the ideas in it? Nope. He's 8.

Equally, I have GCSE students who could analyse that speech, cold, & produce an A* response, but who'd shrivel like a slug in dry ice if I asked them to perform it in front of the class. Different skills.

I'm also irritated by this from LaQueen: 'Hey, let's make this so that just about every child, regardless of ability, can access Shakespeare, even if it's in a really basic, Bard-By-Numbers fashion - we'll get rid of the dreary stuff that can be hard to get your head around, and we'll replace it with diulted, more sparkly ways of studying it. Let's go'

Well,'irritated' isn't fair tbh - if more people actually took an interest in, & questioned, the teaching of Eng Lit, my colleagues & I would absolutely welcome it on the whole, especially if they took the trouble to inform themselves as to what we actually do!

MAKE us justify what we do. DON'T let us get away with laziness or complacency. The texts we're studying deserve better than that.

But the thinking behind it is quite wrong. Yes, Shakespeare belongs to all of us. Yes, we should all be able to access his work. He certainly wasn't the exclusive province of 'high ability' individuals in his lifetime.

But really, if all you want is 'basic, Bard-By-Numbers' - by all means set your students the task of reading the whole text, without focus or rationale. Let's not forget that we old gimmers were taking home dusty copies of Macbeth because those texts were not then in the public domain online.

I think it was probably an acknowledgment of the problem I mentioned above - reading an entire play around the class is an awful way to introduce it. You cast it, & immediately half the class are doing nothing, actually, that lesson. Several of your keen readers are actually pretty rubbish. You stop every ten minutes to explain what's going on (let's not count all the times you stop to prompt a reader who's lost his/her place or just lost interest).

You stagger to the end two weeks later. Everyone is utterly appalled to discover that no, that's not the misery over - now they have an essay to do! Everyone now officially hates Shakespeare. Shakespeare's contemporary adoring public would've bloody hated him if that's how they'd encountered Henry V or Macbeth.

So let's not do that. (& yes, I do know it wasn't always quite that ghastly in the hands of a teacher who was able to communicate a passion for Mr Shakespeare).

OK, let's get them to read it individually at home!

Hmmm. Why? The kids will want to know why. & I've yet to see a convincing argument, on this thread or in quite a lot of years teaching & examining GCSE Eng Lit. I've just had to introduce myself to Othello, which I'd never previously read in its entirety. Did I begin by sitting down with my trusty Complete Works? Did I chuff. I watched Lawrence Fishburne & Kenneth Branagh, then I watched Orson Wells. (& then I read the play in its entirety - but I'm teaching it, not studying it for a Controlled Assessment).

Please understand that I don't not set 'go away & read Romeo & Juliet' because of low expectations of my students. Or because it's difficult for me to do so - most of my current B-A* year 10 group would dutifully go away & read it. & I'd have no marking to do that week! Result!

I don't set it, because they'll get a lot more out of 'Right, that 300 word mini essay you wrote me last week on "so shows a snowy dove trooping with crows". THIS week I want you to find another quotation which links to the main idea from your essay - might be light/dark, or bird imagery, or peace/conflict, or iambic pentameter, or alliteration or onomatopoeia - & write another 300 words exploring similarities & differences between how Shakespeare used imagery &/or language in the two quotations. Oh, & there'll be a house point for anyone who adds a paragraph comparing the same idea in a DIFFERENT Shakespeare play.'

The way we teach Shakespeare in 2013 is a lot more work for both students & teacher than the way I studied Shakespeare at school in 1983. It's also a damn sight more enjoyable, rewarding & rigorous.

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 07:05:28

Let me nail my theses to the door.

1. The research G and his ilk cite as evidence is often free articles they find on Google. They can't access the up to date state of the art research, or they don't know how. Or they don't care enough about what they are doing to bother. Most of them are journalists so more used to a soundbyte culture than a scholarly one.
2. These articles they cite are often higher education related, written by specialists in other subjects. For example they cited a paper written by a Biology professor in the US discussing how he gets 200+ university students at a time in a lecture based system to develop a proper understanding of the material he tries to cover. Obviously this has extremely limited relevance to children, schools, the UK, or anyone not studying Biology at university level in a lecture based system.
3. They are also limited in their reading of books. They cherry pick sections of books, for example in one case by the philosopher Gramsci, and then cite as evidence pages that they think accord with their position. This often misses the author's main arguments entirely. However their own lack of a higher degree in most cases means they are unable to read these texts sufficiently intelligently. In shirt, they don't know what they don't know. They dabble with learning - they are dilettantes.
4. Their main motivations are twofold:
Crush what they call 'The Blob' which is their term for a alleged massed leftist opposition that is the education 'establishment'. To give an idea of how ideologically warped that concept is, they are including me in that - a public school educated ex teacher with experience of both sectors, who teaches and lectures along very traditional lines, and always has. I am, apparently, part of their 'blob'.
Second motivation is to privatise education in a particular way. Now normally when Tories privatise things they extend the courtesy to those working for and using the business, in the form of shares. Not in this case. School profit bases are effectively given away to Tory cheerleaders, and those at the chalk face, such as pupils, teachers and parents, are ridden roughshod over.
5. They get away with this by invoking a rhetoric of educational decline which isn't truthful. The reality is that our school system was underfunded for decades, but once more money was spent, we moved a lot closer to a high reliability education system that offered opportunities to a greater number of children. This is now stalling.
6. It's a game of chess. Gove moves the pieces on the board - exams, curriculum, performance related pay and so on, and people are busy reacting to that, not realising checkmate is looming. Checkmate is back door privatisation.
7. It's the same with the NHS. That's why you are seeing so many stories of uncaring nurses at the moment.
8. There is a religious element to this. Gove has siphoned money off to certain Jewish schools, and his wing man DS wants it siphoned off to certain RC schools. None of this is particularly democratic.

To be continued.

merrymouse Sat 09-Feb-13 07:34:24

"I watched Lawrence Fishburne & Kenneth Branagh, then I watched Orson Wells. (& then I read the play in its entirety)".

I'm just assuming that they would want to do what you did because these students have chosen to study English Literature. It's not as though anybody has to take this GCSE? (Or do they?).

Having said that I'm probably viewing this through rose tinted spectacles. I know people who got 'A's at A-level back in the 80's and claim not to have read all the way through at least one of the set texts.

merrymouse Sat 09-Feb-13 07:35:15

Maybe most of the students do actually read all the way through the play.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sat 09-Feb-13 07:54:55

I think Gove may have been guilty of acting like a bull in a china shop

may have!!!! Now there's understatement!

sassytheFIRST Sat 09-Feb-13 08:16:35

No, no one has to take Eng Lit as GCSE. But most schools prep their students to take both - it's much more fun and interesting than Language on the whole, and many of the skills are transferable.

My bottom set yr11 will do both subjects - about 1 third will pass either or both because they are the bottom set and thus not v bright, have additional needs and chaotic lives. But we've still studied Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, poetry (including The Charge of the Light Brigade), a modern play, A Christmas Carol and Of Mice and Men. Not a noddy syllabus, that.

sassytheFIRST Sat 09-Feb-13 08:17:06

Oh, and I want to applaud ravenak.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 08:46:21

"Well,'irritated' isn't fair tbh - if more people actually took an interest in, & questioned, the teaching of Eng Lit, my colleagues & I would absolutely welcome it on the whole, especially if they took the trouble to inform themselves as to what we actually do!"

Raven IME working as a TA in many English lessons at secondary school, the very last thing the teacher wanted was an (usually) older, old-school/private school educated English graduate TA listening to them...the mistakes I heard were legion...and no, they did not take kindly to even the most delicately phrased concerns...

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 08:50:46

"But really, if all you want is 'basic, Bard-By-Numbers' - by all means set your students the task of reading the whole text, without focus or rationale."

Raven quite the contrary, reading the whole play can have a focus in, and of, itself...your focus is to read the play through...and then let's get cracking on unpicking it and sifting through the layers.

Instead, of students having a cherry-picking approach which dips in and out of the play, resulting in a slightly erratic understanding of what is going on..I know this happens, because I have witnessed it many times in lessons. Time and time and time again, I've worked with students with whom I've had to give a quick synopsis off the top of my head as to where we are in the play.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 08:54:54

"I think it was probably an acknowledgment of the problem I mentioned above - reading an entire play around the class is an awful way to introduce it."

Raven I agree, reading the entire play around the class is dreary - and I never said it should be done. We certainly didn't do it - we were told to read the play, as homework, then started the lessons on it the following week.

So, lessons started using all the clever, tricksy techniques and varying approaches that have been spoken about in such glowing terms above.

And they were great ...and, even better...we could apply them in conjunction with having also read the play through.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sat 09-Feb-13 08:56:33

Are you a qualified teacher, LaQueen? Just interested. You seen very certain you know the best way to teach and so I am wondering what you base this certainty on

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 09:05:53

"The way we teach Shakespeare in 2013 is a lot more work for both students & teacher than the way I studied Shakespeare at school in 1983. It's also a damn sight more enjoyable, rewarding & rigorous."

If that is the case then Raven then why have I sat in endless English lessons, as a TA, where even top set pupils cleary do not have the depth of knowledge or understanding of the play, or the ability to analyse it to the levels which I can - despite having been 18 years out of formal education?

And, why have I sat in endless English lessons, as a TA listening to much younger English teachers who have benefitted from the New Labour approach to teaching English...watching them regularly make mistakes and gaffs...watching them make countless spelling and punctuation mistakes on the white boards...who also freely admit in the staff room that actually they themselves have never read any of Shakespeare's plays page for page...

Fingers crossed our DDs will attend our local girls grammar school. I was lucky enough to sit in on their top set English lesson last week. The teacher was inspirational - nearing 60, but she managed effortlessly to combine an engaging/dynamic teaching style with rock solid technical ability and knowledge.

Her subject knowledge left me standing...and she managed to teach me a lot of things about a novel, which I thought I knew inside out.

Simply superb to watch, and the girls were rapt.

I am so, so, so grateful that our DDs will be taught by this calibre of teacher - and not by the willing, enthusiastic but essentially of mediocre ability teachers, that I have worked with.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 09:06:59

Ship no, I'm not. But, I have worked as a tutor, TA and as a Cover Supervisor, in a lot of schools.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 09:10:20

pointy I totally agree with you, in that we need Gove's Ideal World of Education but only in conjunction with far, far more opportunities for vocational work/apprenticeships for the large numbers of students for whom his Ideal World of Education doesn't suit.

Everyone, everyone, everyone deserves a rock solid, quality education - but I firmly believe that from the age of 14 upwards, there should also be other, vocational avenues for students to follow.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Feb-13 09:35:35

@Boffin I agree with a lot of what you say but not the bit about catholic schools. Gove is rabidly anti catholic and I know several Catholic schools that have been unfairly targeted by OFSTED and given reports which do not in any way match reality. Gove is trying to get rid of catholic schools, if anything.

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 09:51:36

That's not what I was trying to say. I was stating that he has bunged funds to certain Jewish schools, encouraged by various people, while his mate is trying to get money bunged to RC ones. Except this is not transparent.

noblegiraffe Sat 09-Feb-13 09:55:02

Not an English teacher, but I have to say that sending a class home with a Shakespeare play to read over the weekend seems to me to be a terrible way to introduce the text to them. The language is tricky, and without reference to some sort of translation, it would be very easy to get confused about what was going on, bored and turned off. I know because I tried reading The Tempest and it was bloody hard work. In contrast, I watched the recent Hollow Crown series on the BBC, with the subtitles on, and got a much better overview of the plot, the important speeches, the characters, and the language. And the acting helped convey understanding where things got tricky, e.g. the back and forth between Prince Hal and Falstaff. It was brilliant, and I really enjoyed it.

Reading a play as an introduction to it seems like a silly approach to me.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Feb-13 09:59:04

His mate may be trying to get money bunged to catholic schools but since Give himself is trying to nobble them it's not really relevant.

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 10:36:35

Ok, will retract that thesis. Others stand.

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 10:37:56

Why would the study of a play not start will actually seeing it, then reading it, then acting it, then analysing it? Otherwise you might just as well be studying a novel.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sat 09-Feb-13 10:59:38

I have worked wih many many TAs in my time and the ones who are best at their jobs are those that work with the classroom teacher in a constructive way to support the pupils they are there to work with.

It's never personally happened to me but I am not sure how I would react to a TA who seemed to think they could do the actual teaching part of the job better than me.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Feb-13 11:03:03

@boffin I can certainly believe the rest of your thesis. I believe that ten years or less down the line that man will be judged very harshly and rightly so. The links with Murdoch and the expenses scandal revelations alone indicate something very rotten there.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 11:43:42

"Reading a play as an introduction to it seems like a silly approach to me."

noble is it any more silly than being asked to write recipes for the witches' cauldron, for a play which you know absolutely nothing about, as yet...other than that it presumably has some witches in it?

I don't think it especially matters at what point the student reads the play through - but, I do think that for at least the top sets, reading the play through for themselves at some point during their formal study of it, should be an absolutelt requirement.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 11:46:06

Boffin yes, in an ideal world I'd like for students to be given a detailed synopsis of the play to read, followed by seeing a live performance of the play, followed by going home and reading it through for themselves (while it's still vivid in their minds), before then embarking on the actual sifting through it's layers etc.

But, I don't think this often happens, especially as it can be tricky to source a live performance at the right time of the term.

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 11:52:46

"It's never personally happened to me but I am not sure how I would react to a TA who seemed to think they could do the actual teaching part of the job better than me."

Ship my argument was never that I could teach better than the teacher I was supporting. The very reason I never qualified as a teacher was because I knew I didn't have the patience for it.

My argument was that the English teachers I was supporting should have better subject knowledge and technical ability, than they did.

I sat in countless lessons watching them make spelling/punctuation/grammatical mistakes on the white board - and often, making historical mistakes when discussing the historical context of novels etc.

Now, granted I mainly worked as a TA and Cover Supervisor in city centre acadamies which didn't have good reputations, so they didn't attract the cream of the crop when it came to teachers...but, I also worked in quite a few good comps in leafy suburbs, which weren't much better.

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 12:13:51

LaQueen, I think if I had to teach a play and there was no live performance I'd show the DVD on a big screen and make an event of it. Would that be realistic?

LaQueen Sat 09-Feb-13 12:18:19

I think a DVD would be a good substitute. I watched the classic Judi Dench/Ian McKellen one of Macbeth, incredibly haunting smile

Can't beat a live show, though smile

QuickLookBusy Sat 09-Feb-13 12:23:00

I think DVDs do have their place. Both DDs have seen plays at The Globe on school trips, which is fantastic.

But Dd2 was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet, mainly because of the Leonardo Dicaprio film which she saw at about 14. I don't think it matters that she first saw it on DVD if it attracts an interest and passion for the play.

Boffin - I like your thesis and agree with it (except that I don't know anything about where Gove or any of his cronies may be bunging/ not bunging money too)

As part of your thesis research do you know how many politicians working in Dept for Education have actually ever been teachers? I've got a feeling (though I'm not 100% certain) it might be a big fat zero! I think many of them are quite young career politicians and don't even have any experience of their own dcs going through the education system (privileged or otherwise) !

La Queen - I don't doubt your experience but...
"I sat in countless lessons watching them make spelling/punctuation/grammatical mistakes on the white board - and often, making historical mistakes when discussing the historical context of novels etc."

and "acadamies" - er that would be academies - no?

emilywq Sat 09-Feb-13 13:06:15

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sat 09-Feb-13 16:46:05

I really do wish that people who pass judgement on teachers and teaching had some sort of expertise to do so. That's based on my observations over many, many years too.

Especially politicians. You are right about that educatingarti

BoffinMum Sat 09-Feb-13 17:42:18

We could FOI them, but generally they are rather rarified career politicians/advisers with very limited social groups, IME. Know it all, never have to do it, that kind of thing.

pointythings Sat 09-Feb-13 18:37:05

Shipwrecked what really gets me about Gove is the way he is always putting down teachers - and the DM and associated right wing scumbags press just go along with it.

At the same time he never, ever says anything about parents. Parents who don't read with their children because they can't, and therefore need help, parents who don't read with their children because they can't be arsed, parents who don't read with their children because they think violin and ballet lessons are more important - shit parents, who exist in all classes of society. But not a peep from Gove about them, noooo, it's all the teachers' fault. It makes my blood boil, learning should be a partnership between schools and families.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sat 09-Feb-13 19:01:06


I find the headline stories written by clueless journalists so depressing. And what is sadder is the number of people who buy into it because (understandably) they have little personal experience of what is actually involved in good education. so, they believe the bollocks that is printed.

I was shocked by the number of people in my own family who believe you can just sneeze and you'll get an A*. sad

BoffinMum Sun 10-Feb-13 11:46:36

No, he hates parents too, he just hasn't put it in a speech or policy document for a while.

BoffinMum Sun 10-Feb-13 11:47:45

Gove is after a kind of educational Hitler Youth developing plenty of mini Goves that agree with everything he says.

pointythings Sun 10-Feb-13 17:25:42

I suspect you're right, BoffinMum - he's just worried that some of those parents might be the kind that vote for his party...

ravenAK Sun 10-Feb-13 19:49:39


Our kids do have to study Eng Lit, yes.

They all do it as integral part of English, including at least one Shakespeare play each year, throughout KS3.

Then the most able 2/3 are timetabled to do both Lang & Lit GCSEs at KS4. Same teacher for both, integrated course which weaves in & out between CA for one then exam skills for t'other. Less able students do single award English, which incorporates both, albeit with a greater emphasis on Lang.

@LaQueen - I suspect I'd enjoy having you as a TA in my lessons. There'd probably be quite substantial areas of disagreement, but a second person in the room sharing the enthusiasm would be fun, & great for the students. As a department we've been arguing for subject-specialist TAs for some time.

I will just say this about this: 'why have I sat in endless English lessons, as a TA listening to much younger English teachers who have benefitted from the New Labour approach to teaching English...watching them regularly make mistakes and gaffs...watching them make countless spelling and punctuation mistakes on the white boards...who also freely admit in the staff room that actually they themselves have never read any of Shakespeare's plays page for page...' that it isn't an experience you'd be having in my lessons, or that of any of my colleagues.

Although, having been educated in the '80s & subjected to the Tory approach myself, it's a bloody good job I did Latin, or I'd know nowt about English grammar despite going to a super-selective grammar school...wink

GrimmaTheNome Mon 11-Feb-13 09:02:34

>watching them regularly make mistakes and gaffs
Or gaffes even wink.

I did O-levels in the 70s and learnt more grammar from French than English lessons. We didn't study a proper novel - The Nun's Priest's Tale and Under Milk Wood (plus The Merchant of Venice) always seemed a somewhat odd combination to me (other sets did The Mayor of Casterbridge).

We did get taken to see both the Shakespeare and the Thomas, which was good - as well as reading all the texts through in class and having to memorise chunks.

The assessment consisted of one exam paper (all other O-levels were multiple papers). That was shite.

It wasn't perfect then, its not perfect now but not sure its worse - true enough as LaQ says it depends a lot on the calibre of the teacher. Same applies to other subjects of course.

BoffinMum Mon 11-Feb-13 12:15:28

I learned spelling and grammar extremely rigorously in one particular primary school, on a whole class basis. Upon looking up my former classmates on Friends Reunited, I found that, surprise surprise, all the better off kids had left the area and got white collar jobs, and the others had stayed behind and got blue collar jobs, or were unemployed.

It's about a hell of a lot more than what you know.

WynkenBlynkenandNod Tue 12-Feb-13 09:50:03

Ok this is doing my head in all the chopping and then not changing. Year 9 options next month. Compulsory English, Maths and science. 4 options, I'm thinking Geography, Spanish, Photography and Drama. She's not keen the Geography and Spanish but accepts that she needs to do them. Put my foot down about Media Studies with an incentive (No it's not blackmail DD if you find this).

That way she's got core, a humanity, a language then things she wants to do. Does that all sound OK ?

BoffinMum Tue 12-Feb-13 11:20:46

Is Photography really Art GCSE?

No, am pretty sure you can do Photography GCSE in it's own right now BoffinMum - though you can also use some photography within an Art GCSE too smile

GrimmaTheNome Tue 12-Feb-13 12:37:59

Anyway, Wynken, those options sound OK to me, but presumably you get some sort of options evening to discuss these things, and your DD will have a session with someone to check they're ok.

WynkenBlynkenandNod Tue 12-Feb-13 15:10:37

Great, thanks. Options evening is coming but I needed to get MN approval first! It's got a very good art dept and does Photography as well as art. She's had a letter saying they would really like her to consider doing one of them and decided Photography. I originally thought Art might be looked upon as 'better' but DH pointed out is something that she will probably use in the future . I'd like to have a clu how to actually use a camera. So unless they say something to put her off at Options evening she's going with that.

zamantha Thu 21-Feb-13 19:26:33

Am sad the new English GCSe is to be scrapped - it incorporated Literature study but enable the teacher to focus on literacy in the main - just right for many pupils who back in the day would not be allowed to take an O'level - that being 80% of the population.

Purists about Shakespeare do annoy - they are meant to be seen not read - they are plays. The joy of reading them is generally far better once seen and visual cues will support some understanding once the text is explored. Close analysis of critical scenes is a beautiful way to teach Shakespeare as there is then time to mull over perfect poetry.

I also agree up thread how brilliant the BBC David Tennant version of Hamlet is - being a mum can't go to theatre so much and I was transfixed with the way he brought the language to life with such rich meanings.

Hate Gove - so glad GCSEs are staying - surely improve them but don't just focus on the elite. There is also an argument that the C grader receives most focus due to league tables and internal school pressures- this could be addressed.

Ah, what's happening now with English then zamantha ? - DD(13) just starting to really enjoy her English, including Shakespeare - they've been reading "Much Ado"
It's all very confusing isn't it ? Especially for our year 9's (like DD)

zamantha Fri 22-Feb-13 14:09:32

Sorry, don't understand question.

Rhiannon86 Fri 22-Feb-13 14:39:20

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zamantha Fri 22-Feb-13 19:08:35

Do not agree . They are a good measure of standards and it is wrong for others to downgrade or moan about our children's achievements.

Interesting about Maths results today - comparing Asian countries with England. Culture seems to play a part and I do believe we put down education, educationalists and many in society have not been made to see how education can prosper them - is sad. That being said, things are achanaging and the pressure in some Asian communities upon children achieving is perhaps unhealthy.

Just wondered about the changes you mentioned with "new English GCSE to be scrapped" zamantha, but not to worry !

zamantha Sun 24-Feb-13 10:54:50

Happy to answer smile. The new proposals I think are suggesting that the combined course called English which incorporates Eng.lang/Eng. lit is to be scrapped which favoured those slightly less gifted at the subject - namely my DS who is brilliant at Maths and Science but not English. New GCSEs insist on dual certificates and so two exams have to be studied in finite time - not all students will manage breadth of syllabi and sadly some schools will not offer Literature except to the brightest to ensure all pupils achieve a good grade in Language - understandable as all pupils need a good English grade and they only need one for further education. Could mean far fewer lit. texts being studied. sad

zamantha Sun 24-Feb-13 10:56:51

In short:
English GCSE to be scrapped
English literature GCSe and English Language GCSe to continue.
Many schools have to try to teach two exams in 3 lessons maybe 4 a week.

Rhiannon86 Sun 24-Feb-13 12:40:17

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Ah, thanks for that zamantha, it's good to know what's going on !

ravenAK Sun 24-Feb-13 15:45:15

Bugger, we've only just started offering English to our least able couple of sets...nothing on AQA site, Samantha, are you sure? I'd better give HOD a head's up on that one!

zamantha Sun 24-Feb-13 18:33:34

In an email/letter to schools - these were in his list of intentions - Gove that is. I presume the English GCSe will be dropped in about 4/5 years as he had planned all the changes with ebac to do so. However, will he be lobbied about this? It works for many pupils.

ravenAK Sun 24-Feb-13 18:42:58

Thanks (& sorry I got your name wrong - predictive text!).

I've had middle/top sets for the last couple of years, so never taught it, but it does look like a better option than inflated Lang results & dismal ones for Lit for our C/D borderliners. Ah well...

zamantha Sun 24-Feb-13 19:24:43

My DS took it last year and he covered a lot of literature which is good. Was a fiasco with AQA English grades in summer though and we were lucky, as only a few were, his exam was upped by 2 grades. His school, a good all boy comp, had most except top set doing this to maximise grades which had worked prior to the deflation of 2012.

RevisionBuddies Thu 07-Mar-13 14:38:13

Revision Buddies have a nice blog post on this subject...

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