Plans to introduce flagship new qualification to replace GCSEs are 'a bridge too far', says Michael Gove

Triumph for arts subjects as Education Secretary admits to botching reform

The extent of Michael Gove’s exam climbdown has become clear as it emerged that arts subjects will now get enhanced status – after an outcry against plans to downgrade them.

The Education Secretary unexpectedly revealed that art, music and drama GCSEs are to be placed on the same level as core academic subjects as he confirmed his embarrassing EBacc U-turn in the House of Commons. “I’m happy to acknowledge that I made an error,” he told MPs.  “I think it best to retreat.”

One ally said Mr Gove – previously regarded as one of David Cameron’s most sure-footed cabinet ministers – made a crucial mistake in failing to build more support from colleagues and the educational world for his plans to replace some GCSEs with the EBacc. The reform foundered after Mr Gove was warned that the moves were vulnerable to legal challenges and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, registered his strong opposition.

One ally said: “There was a failure to establish a coalition of support for the idea and he became rather isolated. The educational establishment is violently hostile.”

But friends insisted that he was “not chastened” by the retreat.A party source signalled that proposals to introduce an English version of the baccalaureate could still be included in the Conservative manifesto in 2015. He said: “If we can still get the best exam in the world here with a few tweaks we will look at it.”

The source insisted that Mr Gove believed the vast majority of his plans to overhaul the exam system remained in place. He said: “We have still done 80 to 90 per cent of what we wanted to achieve with this package and will be able to make a real difference to the quality of exams. That is what people will notice come Christmas, not the headlines about U-turns.”

Leaders of the arts world were celebrating a spectacular victory on two fronts. First, the EBacc, which would have downgraded the arts in schools by omitting them, was scrapped. Then Mr Gove introduced a new ranking measure for schools which actually boosts the importance of arts subjects.

In future, schools will be ranked on the progress their pupils have made in eight key subject areas – which could include the three arts subjects rather than just the five subjects of the EBacc (English, maths, sciences, languages and history or geography).

In addition, the new move will encourage teachers to stretch their brightest pupils to obtain A* and A passes – instead of concentrating on getting borderline C/D pupils to improve by a grade.  It will give pupils higher point scores the more they improve in a subject.

Previously, the ranking on the percentage of pupils obtaining five A* to C  passes, including maths and English, had led to teachers breathing a sigh of relief once a pupil obtained a C grade pass rather than pushing them to achieve a much higher grade.

Mr Gove said he hoped his new league table reforms would “incentivise schools to offer a broad, balanced curriculum, with high-quality teaching and high achievement across the board”.

Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, who led arts institutions in lobbying ministers to scrap the EBacc, said: “It’s good news that Michael Gove has listened to concerns about his proposals and decided to think again.”

Nicholas Serota, the Director of the Tate galleries, said: “We welcome the news that the Government has abandoned elements of its proposals to introduce a system which would have squeezed arts subjects out of the curriculum.”

Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he hoped “the Government will seize with both hands this opportunity to put an end to perverse incentives which encourage schools to focus on particular groups of students or types of subjects”.

In his statement to the Commons, Mr Gove confirmed he was abandoning the EBacc and plans to have just one exam board offering each of the core subjects, recognising the plans were “a bridge too far”. Instead, he would keep GCSEs but reform them to introduce more rigour in questions and move towards an end-of-cycle examination and away from coursework.

The changes would be introduced in 2015 – the same timetable he had outlined for the EBacc.

Most heads’ and teachers’ leaders welcomed the surprise volte-face, with Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, saying: “Mr Gove has seen the warning light and slammed the brakes on just in time.”

Both the league table reforms and plans for a new national curriculum for schools – also unveiled – will now go out for consultation. The idea is to introduce the changes next year.

The curriculum: Back to basics

Children will be taught foreign languages from the age of seven and expected to recite poetry by the age of 10, under a major shake-up of the national curriculum that emphasises learning by rote and traditional academic subjects.

Michael Gove also bowed to pressure from civil rights campaigners by accepting that Mary Seacole – the Crimean War nurse – should remain part of the history curriculum, after she had been removed from an earlier draft.

In another significant change, secondary school pupils will be taught about personal finance in citizenship lessons.

English

From the day they start school, children should be taught to use only standard English. More weight should be given to spelling, grammar and punctuation. From the age of nine, they should be able to read poetry aloud. 

Maths

At the age of nine children should know their times tables up to 12. By the time they leave primary school, they should have started learning about algebra and geometry – and be fluent in long multiplication and division as well as be comfortable with fractions and decimals.

Science

Primary school children will  have to be taught about evolution for the first time. Children should learn through practical experiences from the time they start school – using their local environment to study plants and animals

History

Lessons should give pupils a knowledge of “how the British people shaped this nation and how Britain influenced the world”.  Pupils should learn through studying the heroes and heroines of the country’s history. For five- to seven-year-olds, these could include scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday, reformers such as Elizabeth Fry and William Wilberforce, and creative geniuses like Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Foreign languages

Children will compulsorily study a foreign language from the age of seven for the first time. They can choose from a range of French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, Latin or Greek.

Geography

Children should be able to name, locate and describe characteristics of the four components of the UK. The emphasis on teaching will be to study “the world’s most significant human and physical features”.

Physical education

Children should have learnt to swim at least 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. They should also engage in competitive sports and other activities.

Citizenship

They should be equipped with the financial skills to enable them to manage their money on a day-to-day basis as well as plan for their future financial needs.

Art and design

By the end of primary schooling, children should improve their mastery of techniques in drawing, painting and sculpture. As they move on to secondary school, they should learn about movements such as Impressionism and Dadaism.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements