Chalk Talk: Never mind the pupils - just think about the league tables
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 21 June 2012
Normally, a rush by schools to implement a government initiative would be greeted with glee in Whitehall. But that was not quite the case when Education Secretary Michael Gove launched the English Baccalaureate. Civil servants, and MPs on the Education Select Committee, sat there in amazement at the "over-response" by schools.
Pupils in their final GCSE year were yanked off their courses by heads – and made to study for a new subject that would count towards the new measure, thus improving the school's showing in league tables.
"I didn't believe that schools and headteachers would do that," says John Coles, director general in charge of school standards at the Department for Education at the time and now chief executive of the country's biggest academy chain, the United Learning Trust. "Children were moved in year 10 (the first year of GCSE study) and sometimes in Year 11 (the final year) from courses they had already started. I think that's quite wrong."
Instead of putting pupils' learning needs first, they were giving priority to their position in the league table. One can see his point but it is tempting to speculate how he would have broached this subject with the minister.
"How have schools taken to the English Baccalaureate?" the Minister would ask.
I think Sir Humphrey would not have said: "Minister, I am afraid they have all over-responded."
"But surely that's a good thing, Humphrey?"
* Nice to see the exam blunders continue unabated despite the threat of fines for the first time from Ofqual, the exams regulator.
An A-level maths paper set by the Edexcel board due to be sat by thousands of pupils today had to be withdrawn and a replacement hurriedly sent out to schools.
To be fair, it hardly seems the exam board's fault – the British Council erroneously sent it to schools in Egypt who had asked for past papers to help them prepare for this year's exams. As a result, there was a risk that it could be passed on to potential candidates.
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...
£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...
£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...