i Editor's Letter: 'Gove's U-turn is profoundly serious'


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The Independent Online


Michael Gove's U-turn on the EBacc is profoundly serious. And, yes, it betrays astonishing hubris and incompetence. But, be clear: both the Tories and Labour have let our children down for decades. Both should be ashamed that they allow dogma to lead and blind them. They share the blame.

I am a proud grammar school boy. With my background, I wouldn't be here except for the grammar school system – and my Ma's immigrant's ethos of hard-working self-improvement. I've heard all the arguments against grammars, but am yet to hear of a fairer way of giving people from humble backgrounds a route to bettering themselves, of using education as "a ladder".

I have also yet to hear a logical argument in favour of school league tables. So many excellent, committed teachers have been demoralised by having to "teach to the test". Schools know it – so do pupils. They work hard, they really do, but to what end?

We now produce generations of school-leavers with ever-improving results and ever-decreasing abilities. How many GCSE A-graders in French can actually speak it in France? How many English C-graders can write a decent job application?

To be fair, Gove knows the system needs reform, but "how" is the issue. We need to improve standards in the three Rs while not narrowing academic focus too soon. Change, though, should come from within: from expert educators. Two things would make an immediate difference: widespread reintroduction of grammar schools, and abolishing all league tables. Most of all, we must stop "teaching to the test".