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Saturday 25 August 2012

Gove Still Mired In English Duck Pond

[Update at end of post]

The ruckus over marking of GCSE English exams shows no sign of dying down, despite it being a Bank Holiday weekend and the other news on offer. Worse, the Government may yet face one or more legal challenges over the issue. And for once the usual suspects in the punditerati have mainly remained silent, despite their usual willingness to dispense their supposed wisdom on matters educational.

One exception is the singularly unyielding Kathy Gyngell of the right-wing Astroturf lobby group the Centre for Policy Studies, formerly the favourite think-tank of Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph. Ms Gyngell, given a platform by the blustering Simon Heffer at Mail Online, trots out all the usual prejudices about the education system, teachers, and standards.

The truth is that the reactions to yesterday’s GCSE results reflect the woefully low professional standards and expectations that beset the entire education system” she opines, before adding “The simple fact is that GCSE reform is not enough. Michael Gove will only end decades of falling standards if he brings back 'O' levels”. Yes, because “O” levels were marked so you couldn’t tell if standards were slipping.

But Ms Gyngell sticks to her task, deploying all the usual canards of grade inflation, an “Orwellian farce” over standards, and that young people were in cloud cuckoo land when it came to their abilities. Sadly, though, she does no more than would be expected from someone deemed an “expert” by her employer, telling all those rubbish teachers that they and their pupils just have to work harder.

Clearly, Kathy Gyngell has not encountered those teachers who have put serious amounts of effort into getting their pupils through GCSE English, such as Chris Edwards, who teaches at a school where around 40% of those attending do not have English as their first language, and who has posted an open letter to the Education Secretary. There is, it seems, no lack of effort from the pupils either.

Another teacher, signing their post “JD”, a Team Leader (or Head of Department in more traditional parlance) has also posted an open letter to “Oiky” Gove. And assistant head teacher Daniel Stucke from Manchester has gone over the numbers and demonstrated how the goalposts for GCSE English were moved between papers being entered in January, and those submitted in June.

Stucke titles his post “Playing with lives, because that is what it is. Changing the rules in mid course is out of order, and he has demonstrated what has happened, so all can see. But the pundits cannot look this far: they cling to their lexicon of catchphrases and beliefs, and for them, teachers are lazy pension chasers, and part of some leftist cabal that is rotting the country through its enforced mediocrity.

The disconnect between the armchair “experts” and reality is disturbingly stark.

[UPDATE 26 August 1915 hours: the latest armchair pundit to underscore the disconnect between the Fourth Estate and the real world is the Mail's Peter Hitchens, who characteristically blames the Tory Party for going soft, what happened in the 60s, and of course the BBC, who allegedly support everything which he deems to be bad.

The bedrock of Hitchens' rant is that his paper is no longer delivered by those of school age, but pensioners. One should not generalise from such a sample, but when the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has laid down the accepted line, then his iron law, and that of Phil Space journalism, dictate otherwise. Hitchens, as with his colleagues, does not cite any example other than hearsay.

That, of course, is good enough for the Mail, so Hitch gets to score More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a bigger scandal with GCSEs and A-Levels than what is being reported. Look at the following links to see students share their experiences:

Rigid mark schemes restricting creativity: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1750969

Examiners knowing less than the examinee: http://tutor2u.net/blog/index.php/economics/comments/examiners-knowing-less-than-their-students/

There is a scandal alright...