Gove’s First Exam.

Could you imagine what Sir Alex Ferguson would have said if the FA had told him half way through last season that they were changing the rules for success? Instead of being measured on how a match was won by goals scored and conceded but also by the combination of goals, assists, free kicks and throw-ins. Not only that, they are going to use this new system this season but also on the previous seasons successes as well. Hairdryer treatment? Possibly; Would Fergie have instructed his team to then play by the new rules? Absolutely.

0%! That was the total percentage of how many of our students achieved the EBacc last summer. When the results were released in January of this year no one at my school was surprised. We all knew that our students weren’t entered for a modern foreign language. Within weeks of this data being released the MFL department was subjected to an Ofsted inspection. This summer we achieved 3%. When the government set about changing the ‘rules’ of success half way through the game, my school then had no choice but to play by them.

Asking students to give up, refocus their attention or undertake additional subjects over half way through Key Stage 4 is not ideal. In fact, it adds significant extra pressure to both student and teacher. The student, who now has more work then they may be able to cope with; The teacher, who is now faced with additional students or classes on their timetable or the flip side which is students focusing less on your subject because it is now deemed not to be as important.

I can see from the results at our school that the introduction of the EBacc did indeed have a negative impact. Our results improved in the EBacc but our 5 A*-C (Inc.English & Maths) fell from 47% to 45%. It could be argued that in order for our students to reach the new standard, they had to stretch themselves too much at too late a stage.

These students started their EBacc options 12 weeks before taking exams and submitting coursework. Many of the students who I spoke to this morning were disappointed with the results they achieved in those subjects that they hadn’t originally chosen over two years ago. A lack of perspective was on display. However, what did we expect? If you expect students to live and die by their results when they fail to achieve the benchmark, they are then obviously disappointed, no matter how difficult the challenge was.

These results leave more questions than answers. Where does this leave the school now? Was it fair to ask so much of our students and teachers? Was it fair to expect so much from them considering the timescales allowed? Where does it leave non-EBacc subjects?

What is clear today, is that you can’t expect to achieve great results from a 2 year GCSE course in just 12 weeks. What will become clear over the coming hours, days & weeks will be that there will be a significant increase in the pass rate for the EBacc. Just 16% of students achieved the EBacc last year and 175 schools didn’t have a single pupil who were eligible to achieve the EBacc. I would think that this year you will see both of those figures increase significantly. The obvious conclusion to draw, is that most schools altered student options during year 11.

What won’t become clear for a long time will be the impact of those subjects that aren’t included in the EBacc. In 2010, I had 10 ICT classes in year 11. This coming year I have 4. The year after, 2. If the trend continues I may well be out of a job very soon. I would like to say that this isn’t out of a lack of interest in the subject but because my school needs to focus more time on the EBacc subjects. It could be argued that employers need their employees to have a greater understanding of ICT than that of Latin or Biblical Hebrew. However, they are EBacc subjects and ICT is not. Subjects should not be left to die just because they don’t fit an academic model of achievement.

Michael Gove would argue that he hasn’t enforced the EBacc benchmark on schools, they are not judged against it. However, you can’t expect to introduce new rules into a game and not expect people to follow them, irrespective of the cost.

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Back in the Gove

“Are you really saying to young people and employers today that dead languages are more important than business studies, engineering, ICT, music and RE?,”

Andy Burnham asked this question in the Commons on Monday. As a teacher, these are the type of questions that we want answered. This was the response from Michael Gove;

“I am surprised you have the brass neck to stand here and say working-class children shouldn’t study modern foreign languages, shouldn’t study science, shouldn’t study history and shouldn’t study geography”.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but Burnham wasn’t saying that working class children shouldn’t study modern languages, science, history or geography for that matter.

Maybe Gove is confused? Maybe in his world latin or biblical hebrew are modern languages. Languages that are at the cutting edge of business in this modern age? Maybe we missed the Apple launch of the next generation of iPad with dual dictionary capability? The dual dictionary that not only predicts english spellings but also latin? Steve Jobs was heard uttering the words Carpe diem as he showed off his new toy?

Burnham was making a legitimate point about the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. Not once have I heard an opposition MP complain that those aforementioned subjects weren’t important, or shouldn’t be studied by working class children. The complaint is that the process of introducing such a measure as the EBACC was so fudged, that it wasn’t fair to schools or students. Students that are being judged against something they had no control over since they took their options 2 years prior whilst in year 9.

The other complaint now, is that, just with BSF, Gove is once again not listening to people at the coal face. Questions have been raised about the modern importance of subjects such as ICT, business studies, engineering, etc. Those legitimate questions have been cynically manipulated to argue that you can’t have have both sets of subjects. It’s the old Bushism, you’re either with Gove or you’re against him. You either believe that ICT is worthwhile and hebrew isn’t. In which case you some how think that working class children are thick. His axis of evil seems to consist of business studies, ICT, engineering and subjects considered ‘vocational’.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of those subjects and how they are as much academic as they are vocational; or even comment on the fact that having a vocation is somehow now wrong. A child can study any subject that they want to. I know of schools that offer 2 GCSE options in year 9, again in year 10 and once more in year 11. The school timetable can be altered to fit everything in.

My major gripe is once again levelled at Gove. No one is saying that history, geography, science, english, maths, french or german aren’t important. But that’s the argument he seems to want to have. When is he going to answer the question about latin having more importance than ICT? Maybe he can’t? Maybe he should Ask Jeeves, maybe he should search on Wikipedia? Maybe he should seize the day and answer the bloody question?

Gove needs to work on his defero, Burnham is adept at asking the questions that should see Gove put firmly in his locus.

Top Trumps – Labour Leadership 2010

September 1st 2010 is a significant date in the diary for many reasons. For most schools in Britain it heralds the start of the new academic year. It marks the 25th anniversary of the wreckage of the Titanic being discovered. Uzbekistanis celebrate the 19th year of independence from the former Soviet Union. For Ed, Ed, Dave, Andy and Diane the 1st of September takes on a special significance as it marks the day in which the Labour leadership ballot begins to drop. Throughout the month, Labour party members will be voting in their thousands until the 25th when the results are announced.

Regular readers of the blog will know that this isn’t the first time I’ve strayed from the subject of the coalition. As I’ve stated before you can’t separate the coalition from the Labour leadership election because the winner will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the Con-Dems. If the correct candidate is elected, then they will have the challenge of trying to form a credible opposition.

When I was growing up, my friends and I used to argue about who would win in a fight…who would win between Optimus Prime & Megatron; Dalglish & Kendall; Stallone & Schwarzenegger; Thatcher & Kinnock (ok I made that last one up). Optimus was a truck but Megatron was a plane; Kendall had Sharp but Dalglish had Rush; Stallone had Rocky but Schwarzenegger had The Terminator; Kinnock had Hattersly but Thatcher had Tebbit. We loved nothing more than debating the minute details of each opponent. Sometimes we would fall onto the statistical debating cards, Top Trumps, to assist us.

Well, in a throwback to those salad days, my friends and I were in the pub the other day sharing stories of our complicated lives. During one of our discussions, two of my more troubled friends started to debate the leadership election. As the debate grew to include all of the table, it became clear that we all seemed to share different views of the candidates.  One area where we were all in agreement was on the importance this election has on the country. We just couldn’t agree on how best to judge the candidates…who would win? David has more support from MPs but his brother has the overwhelming support of the Unions; Diane is a woman, the rest all look the same; Well, just for fun, I’ve made these cards to help me choose and I hope they help you decide…the Cameron card is also included in the pack. (Cards not to be used for serious debate…watch out for the ‘special’ election reform referendum pack soon).

Ed 'I'm not David' Miliband

Ed 'I almost lost my seat' Balls

Diane 'I'm a woman' Abbott

Andy 'I'm northern' Burnham

David 'I'm not Tony but by god I want to be' Cameron

David 'I'm not Tony or Gordon' Miliband