'Golden age' never happened, head teachers' leader tells Gove
Education Secretary's talk of standards being better in the 1950s is dismissed as being misleading
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.
Monday 30 April 2012
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is obsessed with a golden age that never happened, according to the general secretary of the head teachers' union.
Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, says Mr Gove's belief that education was better in the 1950s and 1960s is misleading as only a small percentage of the population took formal exams at 16.
"There are now five times as many pupils who get five A* to C grades at GCSE [the equivalent of the former O levels] than did in 1968," he said. "But that age is held up as the golden age for education when everyone left school able to read and write.
"There was no golden age of education. It felt good then because we were only concerned about the education of a minority of children. If it feels bad now, it is because we consider ourselves accountable for the education of every one of them."
Mr Gove has made no secret of his desire to return to a more traditional curriculum concentrating on core subjects. He has called for history lessons to focus on British events so children would "take pride" in their country.
"I don't believe it's necessarily propagandistic to have a national curriculum broadly sympathetic to our past and our values," he said.
He also caused a stir when he announced plans for ex-servicemen to be to help instil discipline in schools.
Mr Gove said: "They have many of the virtues that parents feel have disappeared from our schools and need to be restored: self-discipline, a sense of purpose and a belief in the importance of working as a team."
Mr Hobby, who was speaking in advance of his association's annual conference this coming weekend when delegates are expected to give Mr Gove a rough ride over his policies, also attacked the Education Secretary for his criticism of literacy standards in primary schools.
He pointed out that in 1995, only 49 per cent of pupils reached the required standard in reading and writing at the age of 11. The figure now is 82 per cent.
"Of course, we need to help the 18 per cent," Mr Hobby said, "but the way to do it is by helping build their character and confidence not by castigating what has happened. That will send us backwards not forwards. I don't personally dismiss the need for the core skills of reading and writing, but employers are saying they want people who can solve problems and work with colleagues as well."
School then and now
Based on English, maths, science, history, geography, Latin and modern languages. Selection meant one in four pupils went to grammar school. The rest went to secondary modern schools. The cane was used and class sizes were likely to be larger.
21st century curriculum
Some authorities retain selection with grammar schools, but most pupils are taught in secondaries. As well as national curriculum tests at 11, GCSEs and A-levels, there is a reading test at six, assessments in maths and English at seven and AS-levels at the end of the first year of the sixth-form. Teacher surveys regularly show fears about discipline.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportUnder-10s football coach sacked for telling parents he was 'only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
Work until you’re 70: Chancellor George Osborne accused of ‘living in fantasy land’ over Autumn Statement pension reforms
What made Charles Saatchi grab my throat outside Scott's, by Nigella Lawson - as she accuses him of threatening to 'destroy' her with drug claims
Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert
Paul Walker death: Eight-year-old son of Porsche driver Roger Rodas tried to rescue his father
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 4 Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida
- 5 ‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert
£50000 - £70000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: SQL 2008 R2/2012 Deve...
£38000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Creative Audit Se...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, P...