Michael Gove has still not concretely explained what will happen to the prospects of students who have missed out on C grades in this summer’s GCSE results fiasco, as he gave evidence to the education select committee this morning.
He maintained that “modulisation was a retrograde step” and continued to blame the previous government for the systematic problem with GCSE examinations. Also, when a senior MP asked about the scenario that employers will potentially ask students in England: ‘did you sit your exams in January or in July?’ Gove simply dismissed this and concentrated on the difference between England and Wales, attacking welsh education minister Leighton Andrews and branding him, “irresponsible and mistaken” for instructing the Welsh exam board WJEC, to review papers.
The education secretary didn’t adequately answer why the difference between January and July hadn’t been pinpointed before. It was pointed out to him that 54,000 students took the English Literature exam in January, and that a sample of 2000 exam scripts gives a fairly accurate figure of the standard of the cohort.
Gove maintained that OFQUAL is working hard and is addressing statistical outliers. He said that OFQUAL could not have intervened earlier, and it was only “in retrospect that result in January were more generous.” He remained adamant that he had seen no evidence that OFQUAL could have known.
However, Gove certainly came out strong in confidently explaining how there is a problem with ‘banking’ C grades and he agreed that many outside education would find this shocking. He went onto say that:
“The point was made by my coalition colleagues that there should not be a two tiered education system. But it is already two-tiered. One group of people cannot get higher than a C. I think it’s wrong. It’s a cap on aspiration.”
Gove added that children should be allowed to get the best in both English and maths, rather than being told that they have secured a C in the bag for one subject, and then can carry on and focus on getting a C in the next subject. Gove called for an end of treating “children as statistical outcomes rather than stretching them.” This message – of aspiration over dumbing down of the next generation – is certainly something that pits Gove as a visionary in David Cameron’s eyes.
But what is certainly questionable is his ruthless manner in implementing this vision. The young people who have just lost out and opened their envelope to find D grades will see that they’ve had their future and job prospects taken away from them unfairly. In Gove’s own words, these young people are not just statistical figures – they are individuals.