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Planned changes to secondary-school exams (EBacc etc): teachers say there should be more consultation; what do you think?

(220 Posts)
LittleTownofBethleHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 14-Dec-12 14:51:43


We've been contacted by The National Union of Teachers (NUT), who'd be really interested to hear your views on the planned changes to secondary-school exams.

The NUT, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Musicians' Union have joined forces to say that, although they're not opposed to reform of the exam system, they think the Government's recent consultation on the new EBacc was too limited and that any decision to move ahead is being made in haste.

They say: "We believe on an issue of such importance to young people's future the conversation cannot be over. Accordingly we are asking for a further consultation with a wider remit and brief, involving parents and students, as well as the profession and employers."

They've also set up a microsite to petition Michael Gove to re-open and extend his review of secondary-school exams.

Please do feel free to post your thoughts here.

Solopower1 Sun 16-Dec-12 13:58:05

Why do you think teachers are so often disliked? Could it be that we are forever putting other people down? Why do we do it? Why oh why oh why ...

<Note to self: whenever I feel a put down coming on, stab self in eye with pencil.>

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 14:29:26

I've only got two eyes. They'd have to regenerate hourly if I spent much time on this thread. grin.

But yeah - I was probably quite sarky in tone to chloe74, for which I apologise if she's offended, but I do think she's spouting unmitigated piffle & needs to substantiate her assertions.

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 14:49:20

Why is chloe banging on as if it is only teachers who are concerned about these changes, and that their concerns are merely cosmetic piffle designed simply to make their lives easier?

Many, many people, from many professional organisations and walks of life have expressed deep concerns about the proposals, including members of Gove's own party.

As for the assertion that it has not been simply drawn up on the back of an envelope - then where are the details? Why does no one seem to know what will happen to vocational subjects and the arts? Why does no one seem to know how an exam can be designed that will be both rigorous and accessible to 80% of the population? Why was the first that anyone, including many in the government heard about these proposals through a leak to the tabloids?

How can anyone be expected to have confidence in a massive change to the education system that is being so blatantly rushed through, presumably to meet a general election deadline?

chloe74 Sun 16-Dec-12 15:00:26

ravenAK - The core skills for a schoolchild is very different to those who have been employed for 30 years. “Learn the rules before you break them”, otherwise you will get stuck in the past.

I admit I am not an art teacher, but I am not prejudiced against it. Just because I do not understand the inner workings of an art curriculum does not mean I am not well informed on what is 'core' to business wanting to employ a sixteen year old. Business wants children who can read, write, count, think and learn, for the vast majority of employers it is not even on the radar how artistic a child is. Obviously teachers in specific subjects have rose-tinted spectacles, what this country is not short of is artists.

Perhaps it would help our country if teachers were required to work in the private sector for a few years before becoming teachers. This would give them a perspective on how hard it really is to get a real job, what skills/qualifications are actually needed to be employable and how badly our education system has let us down.

When talking about consultation I was referring to the OP, which states it wants more consultation on top of what has already taken place. Perhaps someone here works in the Education dept and can actually confirm that no consultation has/is taking place. If not then teachers here can only claim that they have not personally be consulted. Which isn't that surprising.

noblegiraffe - Just because we do not know all the detail does not mean they do not exist. More power to Gove that he doesn't have the verbal diarrhea of other politicians. I imagine we will get more details when we get them and then we can have a factual argument instead of this constant diatribe by people dismissing the concept for fictional reasons.

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 15:13:21

Chloe74 - Your first paragraph is actually quite accurate. The core of a GCSE level education is far in excess of that accessed by most of those who left education 30 years ago.

Prior to teaching, I worked in the private sector for over a decade, firstly in music promotion & then owning & running a pub/restaurant. I'm quite au fait with the skills needed to be employable, honestly.

'I imagine we will get more details' - but what you 'imagine' isn't really relevant to the solid, detailed information professionals working in education actually need. Give me a draft spec, as was done well in advance with the 2010 overhaul, & I can get cracking on the huge amount of work required to make our teaching resources 'fit for purpose'.

& I think we've established that what you know about the consultation which has already taken place could be written on the back of a postage stamp, never mind an envelope. Which is fine - why would you be any better informed, when teachers aren't? - but you'll have to accept that rather a lot of educational professionals, including but certainly not restricted to serving teachers, do not share your blind faith in the slithy Gove.

rockinhippy Sun 16-Dec-12 15:41:34

This worries me greatly, yes I agree changes are needed, but not in haste & not some new fangled rushed idea that will probably last until the next government decides to change again - does no one else remember the fiasco with 16+ in the 70s ?? - I do, because its exactly what happened back then - Conservative government too if I remember rightly hmm

I have 16+ passes equivalent to high grade GCEs, but would anyone bar a small few my age have a clue what they mean - no - thankfully being self employed early on I didn't need them, but not everyone has that luxury, far more thought and care needs to be taken over this than is planned or we are going to end up with another generation of adults with qualifications no employer understands, because they were binned after a few years!!!

chloe74 Sun 16-Dec-12 15:50:38

raven - I don't doubt many GCSE skills exceed those of 30 years employ. What I was explaining was that they are not all needed by those who have long ago chosen their life's path. Isn't the idea that children learn skills they might not use because they haven't yet figured out which ones they will need?

You might like to have more detailed info so you can get to work on it, but that is not the same as saying they do not exist.

I don't need to know about the results of the consultation because I am not the one making the decision. How is it that I should respect your ability on the best way to teach yet you refuse to accept Gove's ability to make the right decision for the county. It just seems your opposition to reform is your political ideology.

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 16:00:47

Because I have been demonstrating my ability to teach for the past fourteen years?

Whereas Gove has done nothing to convince me, or the majority of educational experts/professionals - again, not just teachers - that he has the slightest clue about something he has no background or experience in.

It's rather understating the case that I would 'like to have more detailed info so you can get to work on it'. It's of serious concern to me that the first cohort, at least, to be entered for the new quals. (assuming any of this ever happens of course) will be very much disadvantaged because the specification, assessment materials etc. have been hastily & shoddily prepared.

I don't oppose reform. NOR DO THE TEACHING UNIONS as has been repeatedly stated. I wrote 4 new Schemes of Learning for the new spec three years ago, & very much enjoyed doing so, I'm a GCSE examiner & regularly attend feedback sessions with the Exam Board. The very nature of teaching is that you continuously reflect on what you're doing & 'reform' it.

What I am opposed to is half-arsed, ill-informed & rushed tinkering by a career politician to fit his political ideology & personal megalomania.

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 16:04:33

If there are more details, why were they held back from the consultation that finished last week? That would make no sense at all.

chloe74 Sun 16-Dec-12 16:07:43

RAVEN - I bow to your skill at teaching children but what skill do you have reforming an entire education system? Gove does not have to be an expert teacher to do his job, he will have others for informing where that is needed. It is your opinion that he has no clue but I find him to be very adept at what he does ie running an education system, as has a majority of the county voters. You just don't like him...

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 16:20:00

Oh, you'd noticed? wink.

He's not given me a great deal of reason to love him, really.

I'm not asking him to be an expert teacher; just to make sure he gets this right. By, for example, listening to those who ARE experts & are pretty much universally sceptical at best.

My opinion is that he is more interested in rushing this through in order to ensure that the public sees as much more of his phizzog as possible before the next GE, when either the Tories will remain in power & he'll look for a rather more exciting Cabinet post, or they'll be kicked out & he can attempt a leadership coup.

Not that I care whether his political career amongst the 'lower than vermin' flourishes - if he could promote his own interests whilst simultaneously presiding over intelligent reform of education, more power to his elbow.

But I'm afraid what I see is the latter being sacrificed to serve the former.

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 16:24:21

You find him adept but many, many people who actually know what they're talking about think this scheme is dangerous, Chloe. Why are you not listening to them?

cricketballs Sun 16-Dec-12 18:06:22

Chloe - if you ask teachers you will find that the vast majority of them have 'worked in the real world' before going into teaching (especially secondary) it is unusual to find those who went into it straight from university.

If you actually also listen to the arguments put forward by those who are opposed to the changes that Gove is pushing through you may also learn that the opposition is not change but the manner in which these changes are taking place, i.e.

*do not cater for all abilities
*not workable to have one exam to suit 80% of ability range
*the limited curriculum it will enforce (don't believe the hype that the subjects that don't contribute to the league tables will continue when that is what a school is judged on)
*the speed in which it is being brought in
*the lack of consultation with experts
*the complete contempt to the misgivings that experts have already voiced

can you give your answers to these issues as you seem to be the only person in this country who has the details?

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 18:19:01

About the arts -

"The government, and Michael Gove in particular, are under sustained attack from arts luminaries for their policies on arts education, focussing on the proposed English Baccalaureate, the EBacc, from which arts subjects have been excluded. In hopes of the government’s better understanding of what might be at stake, the likes of Nicholas Hytner, Grayson Perry and Sir Nicholas Serota have chosen to speak in economic terms, claiming that the creative economy could even be destroyed “within a generation” as a result.

Richard Eyre, the former National theatre artistic director, described the policy as “incredibly short-sighted”, and David Hare at his most florid has condemned “the most dangerous and far-reaching of the government’s reforms”. Even Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House and an avowed Gove fan, reports that there is already evidence that schools have cut courses in drama and performing arts because they are not in the EBacc."

chloe74 Sun 16-Dec-12 20:34:58

Hmmm - giraffe - I just don't believe the arts industry will be destroyed if children aren't forced to learn art. However right now we do have businesses complaining that children cant read and write well enough.

raven - you get 10 experts in a room and you get 10 different opinions. Its a politicians job to distil that expertise into a policy for the whole country, there will always be people that complain and resist change. Its easy to get experts to defame something new but you rarely hear them all coalescing on what is the right course of action. What we can say is that the GCSE system has been discredited and we need change.

You are also not dealing with the reality that its usually impossible to get the change we want because of the differing interest groups. eg we all agree a single EBacc exam is not suitable for all levels of ability but labour/libdems have made it impossible to have two separate exams. Gove can only work with what is possible.

Its always hard to accept opinion from self proclaimed experts when they are so rude about people they haven't even met.

From what I understand the changes will only come into force in 2017 which leaves time for the next government to stop them, if they really believe they are wrong.

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 20:47:57

Chloe, the GCSE is one exam which is suitable for (almost) everybody, tiering the papers (e.g. Foundation and Higher papers) is what makes this workable. It's not impossible at all, it's just not what Gove is proposing. Gove wants everyone who sits the new qualification to sit the exact same paper as each other, which is blatantly ridiculous in subjects like maths and science. What everyone (you mention Labour and the Lib Dems but really the oppostion was much wider than that) was utterly united against was two tiers of education, like O-levels and CSEs, which make it very difficult to switch to a different qualification once your path has been set.

You are also incorrect to say the changes come into force in 2017. That's when the new exams will first be sat, but students will start the course in 2015. When's the next election due?

Have you actually read through the proposals as you don't seem to know much about them, despite apparently being fully in favour of them?

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 20:49:42

'Its a politicians job to distil that expertise into a policy for the whole country' - yes, agreed, & he's doing a quite spectacularly terrible job of it, which is my & other posters' cause for concern.

I don't think you've fully understood the proposals re: single tier entry, & I'd be fascinated to hear your evidence for Labour or the LDs blocking two separate tiers.

You might find this concise & informative; it's a biased source, but will address some of your more obvious factual misapprehensions re: start dates & tiering.

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 20:51:13

x-posted noblegiraffe.

MoreBeta Sun 16-Dec-12 21:02:24

Sorry if I missed this among the thread but what happens to the other subjects outside the Ebac?

My DS1 is very academic and capable of soing more than just the Ebac 5 subjects. I would like him to do 2 languages, history and geography as well as the 3 traditional sciences, art, maths and English. Will students stil take exams in thsoe subjects?

DS will be in taking his GCSE/Ebac in what will be the second year of the implementation?

Is there a website I can read more about the details?

titchy Sun 16-Dec-12 21:03:00

Chloe what do you think the pass rate of the new exam will be? What do you think it should be? 50%? That would make it clearly a rigorous exam - but does Gove want to be remembered as the politician responsible for 50% of 16 year olds finishing year 11 with NO qualifications? Maybe the pass rate should be 80% then? Oh whoops suddenly the EBC isn't worth the paper it's written on as it's so easy to pass! Hmmm maybe Gove wouldn't like that either.... And you TRUST this man! You genuinely think he will act in our children's best interests rather than his own? Very few politicians put their careers second to their principles IMO - very naive to believe Gove is one of these few.

ravenAK Sun 16-Dec-12 21:09:11

We don't know, MoreBeta.

Hence the concern.

I teach in a 'good with outstanding features' state school - we're known locally & with some justification as a proficient exam factory.

I can assert with some confidence that we won't be doing all that much of anything that doesn't show up in a league table somewhere. I don't imagine non-Ebacc subjects would disappear - parents would go nuts! - but they'd be low priority.

My dc are similar & I also worry about narrowing of the curriculum.

chloe74 Sun 16-Dec-12 22:02:41

raven out of interest (and I have no hidden agenda in asking this) but if you teach in a good school, what in your opinion would make it an outstanding school or is it Ofsted that is a bad measurement scale.

I have read the website you referenced before, its not really unbiased is it?

Personally I would peg each grades results to the top 10%, 20%, 30% etc in that year which would stop grade inflation but I am willing to accept a system that people more experienced than me think is better.

giraffe - I disagree that GCSE's are able to provide the necessary, business/universities etc are unable to differentiate between the bright students because they are all lumped together. At the other end they are disregarded because kids are told they have qualifications who cant even read or write properly.

FYI I am not fully in favour of the proposals, I am fully in favour of waiting to see what the proposals are before I dis them.

titchy Sun 16-Dec-12 22:10:28

What on earth do you mean businesses and universities can't tell the outstanding candidates cos they're all lumped in together? Yeah right cos everyone gets 10 A*s don't they? hmm

noblegiraffe Sun 16-Dec-12 22:10:47

But you're too late, Chloe, the consultation has finished. Anything that you say from now on is irrelevant to what will actually happen.

Wouldn't it have been nice to know exactly what the proposals were before the consultation ended? Or maybe re-open the consultation after the proposals have been revised and refined?

By the way, GCSEs are not university entrance exams, as most students go onto further education, then maybe higher education. Businesses that are looking at 'top candidates' will also not be looking at GCSEs. They are mainly a stepping stone. If some universities can't distinguish between top candidates at A-level then perhaps they should set their own entrance exams that tell them exactly what they as individual universities want?

titchy Sun 16-Dec-12 22:16:16

Look why can't we just keep GCSEs, as individual qualifications, so if a kid is genuinely unable to learn an MFL they can still get a decent number of qualifications. Maybe we could call them something else if there's that much sneering over the standard of the GCSE. Maybe we could have a pass rate as Chloe suggests. But please let us NOT have one school leaving certificate type qualification where the subjects are pre-defined. And let's keep the tier system the same, so late starters can get the same qualification and have a chance at a decent grade.

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