Parliament kicked off this afternoon with Michael Gove reiterating that he will not get involved in decisions made by Ofqual over the controversial GCSE results this year, followed by immigration minister Damien Green tackling emergency questions on the London Metropolitan University overseas student ban.
The education secretary said that he would not undermine Ofqual’s authority in regulating qualifications and examinations in English schools, during the first questions on education of the Parliamentary session. He said that, “I share the sadness with what happened with GCSE English this year.”
But Gove slammed English exams, and said they were “not fit for purpose” and that it was wrong for ministers to mark papers. He also said that under Labour there had been grade inflation and ‘dumbing down.’ He announced that “At last, the tide is turning.”
He clashed with the shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, who reminded the education minister about his comments in 2008, criticising ministers that had an “‘it weren’t me miss’ attitude”, and said that it was time to change this. Twigg accused current education ministers for failing this test.
MPs asked questions about the modulisation of English exams, and whether there will be the same problems next year, especially as it will still be GCSE examinations, and whether the responses that those who entered in January “got lucky”, were adequate.
Gove responded by saying it was actually the previous government who had failed, and that “it’s a pity that a party that used to reform education is now clambering on any bandwagon.”
With regards to the emergency question on the London Met debacle, immigration minister Damien Green said that there were three specific areas that had to be addressed: 1) why students had been studying without permission 2) a closer inspection of the university’s student selection 3) the student attendance monitoring by the university.
Green emphasised how students had to speak English. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn challenged Green, asking why there were no specific figures of the number of students affected. He questioned what message this sent out about the UK and said that of special concern was what would happen to students in their final year of university. Green responded by saying that a task force had been set up and was ready.
Gove also announced today that there will be 55 new free schools opening this year that will “provide a high standard” of education. Michael Gove added that the establishment of new free schools would be “building upon the good labour reformers, like Lord Adonis.” This will add to the 24 Free Schools that first opened in September 2011, while a further 114 have been approved to open in 2013.
There were jeers from the Labour benches when Conservative MP Karl McCartney said that the lack of competitive sport in schools was due to the last Labour government’s attitude, which did not provide a winning mentality. Gove replied, “Judging by the Labour benches, in fencing terms, that was a palpable hit,” and said that there would be more sport in schools, but could not commit to the two hours a week of sport that Dame Kelly Homes recommended.
Another issue that the government would not commit to was frees schools for all primary school children. Nick Gibb MP said that it would cost £3.4bn for this, and this was not realistic in the current economic climate.