Michael Gove's dramatic u-turn last week on his elitist plan to bring back O levels through the English Bac Certificate exposes some of the flaws behind his over-zealous reforms.
In spite of warnings from teaching professionals and exam boards and protests from creative arts and business leaders about the dangers of a narrowed curriculum, his qualifications reform is rooted in a return to the past with a stress on knowledge over skills, exams over coursework and a one size fits all system set up to fail numbers of pupils. It is based on the fallacy that high standards and rigour can only be achieved through traditional academic education alone and instead of modernising to prepare young people for today's challenges and tomorrow's world.
Every child is entitled to an education that meets their potential and this means continuously driving up school standards through strong leadership, good governance, investment and collaborative school improvement. The London Challenge turned round schools in London under Labour in this way and new academies were introduced to achieve high standards in schools that were failing. Gove's determined academisation programme implies that it is academies themselves that make the difference rather than the qualities needed to deliver high standards.
Although the evidence is that some academies are high flyers and some are failing, Gove's next step is to force schools categorised under Ofsted as 'requiring improvement' to change their management status and become sponsored by an academy. This is in spite of parents' or teachers' wishes or the governors' proposals. This week Gove has been criticised for the bullying in his department which raises more questions and doubts about his ability to deliver reform that genuinely benefits every child in the twenty first century.
Cllr Mary Arnold
Lead Member for Children and Families, Brent Council