Gove calls for a split with Wales and NI on GCSE and A Level reform…

Here’s one to put on the long term forecast. Michael Gove was over last week (not that our Education Minister was very forthcoming on what they actually talked about)… and now he has announced there is such a gap between his reforms in GCSE and the way it is done in Wales and Northern Ireland that there may have to be a split.

John O’Dowd has said that he has no principled objection to the change. But that’s not been the case in Wales, where Leighton Andrews does have some serious political problems with the Conservative Secretary of State’s proposals. BBC Wales reports some edge to the ‘conversation’:

In a report in The Guardian newspaper, Whitehall sources accuse the Welsh government of being “determined to keep dumbing down” exam standards.

On Twitter, Mr Andrews said the “meeting was cordial but the Whitehall source is just offensive – and it reads like it was someone in the meeting”.

Referring to the Guardian article, Mr Andrews said: “And a week later Whitehall sources, quoting directly from a comment in the meeting, start being offensive again.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, Wales will continue to have GCSEs, A-levels and AS levels. So will Northern Ireland. I don’t know about England.”

He added: “One of the benefits of devolution is that it allows England to be a laboratory for experiments.”

Ouch… A likely reference to Gove’s climbdown over his plans to dump GCSE and replace it with an English Baccalaureate Certificate. The SoS wants to move from the modular learning of GCSE (and the older CSE and TEC qualification) towards exam based learning.

It will be interesting to see how this one pans out…

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  • The Raven

    “Northern Ireland’s Education Minister John O’Dowd has said he is not opposed to revamping the exams, but would not be rushed into action.”

    Thus was it ever.

  • Barnshee

    England is heading towards a ending/much reduced coursework system plus calling in the “Russell” group of unis to underwrite it. This will produce “more rigor” and “higher standards”. The plebs in the devolved areas can set their own (inferior) “GCSE/Alevels”
    Sorry Seamus/Billy/Jacinta/Victoria your A levels are worth less than the “real thing”

    Of Course (-as already happens) NI schools might continue to use English exam boards for their pupils
    What absolute [text removed – mods] NI politicans are

  • crockaleen

    I remember comparing two Spanish A-Level papers a few years ago – one AQA and the other CCEA – and finding it quite difficult to conclude whether one was more challenging than the other: the formats were quite different.
    So I don’t think Gove is far off the mark when he states the gap is widening between NI, Wales and England.

    It just strikes me as odd, with the Bologna Process in full swing to (try to) ensure comparability of degrees across borders, that anyone would want to do the opposite with qualifications within the UK.

  • Reader

    crockaleen: It just strikes me as odd, with the Bologna Process in full swing to (try to) ensure comparability of degrees across borders, that anyone would want to do the opposite with qualifications within the UK.
    Oh look. All the other boys in the squad are out of step apart from our wee Johnny (Michael, Leighton). Maybe everyone is doing what they think is best.

  • I fear Gove has not recalled the awful warning Grimes gives Paul Pennyfeather in Decline and Fall [Chapter 10, post Mortem]:

    “Take my tip, old boy; never get mixed up in a Welsh wrangle. It doesn’t end in blows, like an Irish one, but goes on for ever.”

    But if anyone here really, really understands what Gove is on or up to, let the rest of us know. Before it’s too late. Most of us suspect the end-result will be something like Mr Levy, of Church and Gargoyle, scholastic agents, telling Paul Pennyfeather:

    “We class schools, you see, into four grades: Leading School, First-rate School, Good School, and School. Frankly,’ said Mr Levy, ‘School is pretty bad. I think you’ll find it a very suitable post.’ “

  • Fortlands

    Gove is intent on getting as near to the good old days as he can, when lots of people failed exams and only those with really good memories were able to regurgitate stuff they’d done in class 20 months earlier. The teaching profession in England detest him and his ideas because they know they’re anti-learning. We should count our lucky stars that we’ve sufficient control over our A Levels that we can let little Michael rampage away, it won’t affect us. Anyway, having a different system from Britain doesn’t seem to have put southern students at any great disadvantage. If it’s Gove’s way or the highway, let’s be grateful we have a highway.

  • Delphin

    Two aspects of this concern me.
    Grove has got right up the noses of the headteachers of England- not a naturally obstreperous bunch. He is apparently setting education back 50 years.
    John O’Dowd is only marginally better than Caitríona Ruane. Right so.
    What was satire in Waugh’s time is now every day reality

  • cynic2

    “not a naturally obstreperous bunch” ….except when being held to account for deteriorating standards.

    So now SF condemn our children to ever lowering standards and devalued exams that will not prepare them to compete for the best university places or jobs

    Still with the Ministers own core skills of flipping burgers I am sure he will be well placed to advise them on the skills needed in the McDOnalds University

  • cynic2 @ 10:44 pm:

    I detest Gove, and all his works. Thank geography and everything else he cannot dictate to NI!

    Let us not deny that in any comparators the “best” [= selective, fee-paying] NI schools perform astoundingly well in all those populist newspaper UK tables. Nothing can change that. Pull all the plugs: those schools go [semi-]independent, on the back of the revenue of Mum and Dad.

    What matters, though, is the quality offered to the masses below the “bourgeois”.

    That is, in NI or UK (and even, let me suggest, RoI), the Big Issue.

    If there’s one lesson we ought to have learned it’s that the young climber upward then cannot turn his/her back and pull the ladder up after her or him [N.B. — my Shakespearean reference for this post]. In this world economy, we are all in it together.

    So, where are we?

    Well, I’d go back more than a century. My favourite point of reference in Shaw’s Man and Superman from 1903. Yes: I’ve traipsed this out repetitively. Shaw — let us recall — was actually involved in education. He was a member of the London County Council, founder of the LSE.

    So, in 1903 he writes this play: Man and Superman. The “Superman” is the mechanic, [H]Enry Straker, who maintains the car of the nominal- and romantic-hero (Tanner):

    Tanner:: What was that Board School of yours, Straker?
    Straker:: Sherbrooke Road.
    Tanner:: Sherbrooke Road! Would any of us say Rugby! Harrow! Eton! in that tone of intellectual snobbery? Sherbrooke Road is a place where boys learn something: Eton is a boy farm where we are sent because we are nuisances at home, and because in after life, whenever a Duke is mentioned, we can claim him as an old school-fellow.
    Straker:: You don’t know nothing about it, Mr Tanner. It’s not the Board School that does it: it’s the Polytechnic.
    Tanner:: His university, Octavius. Not Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Dublin, or Glasgow. Not even those Non-conformist holes in Wales… Regent Street! Chelsea! the Borough! — I don’t know half their confounded names: these are his universities, not mere shops for selling class limitations like ours. You despise Oxford, Enry, don’t you?
    Tanner:: No, I don’t. Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like. See?

    Precisely. And in Germany and Austria they put Eng. as a mark of honour on your gravestone.

    OK: in the absence of any way of reviewing this piece, I hope I’ve closed every HTML code I’ve opened. If not …

  • The Raven

    “And in Germany and Austria they put Eng. as a mark of honour on your gravestone.”

    I have two nephews and a niece, 7,9,13. I am already sounding like my late mother… “…with a trade, dear sister, they will never be wanting…”

    There won’t be much need for financial services when The Fall comes. Naturally, that’s a hard sell to anyone in construction at the moment, but I live in hope.

  • “And in Germany and Austria they put Eng. as a mark of honour on your gravestone.”

    No, Malcolm, they don’t. It’s more likely to be “Ing(eneur). I see I’m the first around here to correct you. You spotted that detail in Salzburg, didn’t you, just before you wolfed into the 100 octane horse-radish, mistaking it for creamed celery. Oh, how we laughed …

    But certainly in parts like Munich they really are into titles. Do you also remember the brass plaque for “Dr. Dr. Dr. Schmidt”? That’s repec’!