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Chalk Talk: You name it, Michael Gove has found a way to measure it


Okay, folks, prepare yourself for the all singing and dancing new government exam league tables! The secondary school performance tables, to give them their proper name, have been given a makeover by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The tables, published later today, now contain more than 200 different fields to help parents assess the performance.

You can look at how well schools are doing for their disadvantaged students and compare that to the efforts they are making for better-off pupils. And there are, of course, the hardy perennials – five A* to C grades at GCSE including maths and English and the A-level point scores for every school.

Last year, when Mr Gove included the English Baccalaureate in league tables for the first time, there was criticism of how much its introduction was distorting or altering the school timetables. Heads were said to be switching pupils from non-Baccalaureate subjects to the staple diet of maths, English, science, a foreign language and a humanities subject, either history or geography) recognised by the new qualification.

I reckon that problem will be overcome this time as I cannot see heads making the necessary 200 or so changes to each individual's curriculum to do well in every facet of the curriculum

I am indebted to John of Garland for an insight into how little has changed in the world of education over the centuries. I may do him a disservice, but he seems like the 13th-century equivalent of one of those liberal academics most distrusted by the Chris Woodheads of this world. He was cited by Universities Secretary David Willetts over comments he made in 1241 when he said: "The lucrative arts are in vogue – I think those things are pursued that have cash value."

Sounds like the storm being created by the Coalition Government's reform of universities fees, with supporters of the arts and humanities claiming their subject areas will be downgraded as a result.

By the way, again quoting Mr Willetts, in a lecture to the right-wing think tank Politeia last week, did you know that there are only 85 institutions in Europe that have survived for more than 500 years. Of those, 70 are universities. I wonder how often hard-pressed journalist have predicted their demise over the centuries.