Leave things to the professionals, Mr Gove

The Education Secretary almost managed to make his climbdown on the EBC look like part of a bigger masterplan. Almost, but not quite

Share

They piled into the chamber to hear him, always a cool performer even when being forced to climb down (and, let’s face it, he’s had a bit of practice). So it proved yesterday in the House of Commons. Michael Gove almost managed to make his U-turn on the scrapped EBCs sound like part of a bigger masterplan. Almost, but not quite.

Political realities had made his decision inevitable. Condemnation of the proposals had came from every side. When the CBI, Ofqual, the Education Select Committee – chaired by a prominent backbencher from your own party – and a series of popular figures in the arts are all against you, it is time for a minister to admit, in Gove’s own words, that it was a “bridge too far”.

But triumphalist opponents should beware. Gove might have ditched the idea of a single exam board for the now discredited EBCs but many of his other reforms remain, including a reformed curriculum, and abolition of coursework and “bite-size” modules, all of which could still make the now retained GCSEs pointlessly demoralising for a significant number of pupils.

Gove also announced no fewer than eight new accountability measures for schools which, for good and ill, will once again change the terms of the league table game for exhausted heads while allowing Gove to claim that he has listened carefully to his critics.

Here lies the real problem with this sort of rhetorical and rushed politics. On the one hand, it is just all too much. Too many ill-thought-out Big Ideas. Too many elegantly dispensed U-turns. Too many education ministers nailing the supposed faults of the system, while arrogantly ignoring the interests, and experience, of the people who really matter: heads, teachers, governors, students.

On the other hand, a series of fundamental problems remains unaddressed. With the leaving age soon to rise to 18, many now question the need for 16-plus exams. Indeed, when Gove talked yesterday of creating an education system to “match and exceed those in the highest performing jurisdictions”, he failed to mention that most of them don’t have high-stakes exams at 16 at all.

But please. Keep those back-of-the-envelope- scribbles to yourself. What we need now is some deep, long-term, possibly cross-party thinking, drawing on the experience of professionals, on how to create a genuinely comprehensive curriculum for the 21st century. Indeed, a group of secondary school heads, fed up with the Government’s failure to address this issue, has already started work on such a plan. Sometimes it is less important to dazzle for a day than think seriously about how to secure sustainable change for future generations. Labour should pay heed.

Melissa Benn is the author of  ‘School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education’

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
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
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform