Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Teachers should stop campaigning and start educating

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Education Secretary Michael Gove

I am no fan of the Coalition Government as regular readers of my blog know but I have always singled out two ministers for special treatment: Iain Duncan Smith for his Welfare reform and Michael Gove for his work to improve Education.

Last week the GCSE results came out. Something good happened: the results went down. Any right-minded person knew grades had been inflated for ideological reasons since 1997 and I am delighted to see Mr Gove has tackled the exam boards and vested interests in the teaching unions to start the process of rigorous exam marking again. 
The same has happened with the A-Level exams as well: the results for this year have also dropped. Again, we should rejoice because unless something was done exam results were soon to be worth less than the certificate they were printed on. Up until this year, GCSE and A-Level results had gone up year-on-year for the past 15 years. Now, either students were getting cleverer (the same ones who don’t know who Neil Armstrong was) or the exams were getting easier. Universities and, more importantly, employers worked out years ago that it was the latter and reacted accordingly. The top universities started their own entrance exam or at least demanded straight As and employers after they found recruits were having difficulty writing and adding up decided not to trust the exam results at all (funny that!). Something had to give or a whole generation of people were going to end up on the scrap heaps because employers were refusing to employ them and would rather employ immigrants (perhaps that’s why Labour opened our borders to hide their incompetent Education policies?).  
Michael Gove has done one of those rare things in post-Thatcher politics: he has actually pulled the trigger and implemented what he believes. This improvement in exam marking, which in turn will start to improve the reputation of the GCSE and A-Level, didn’t just happen overnight. The courses take two years to complete and so straight after the General Election in 2010 Mr Gove would have got to work. Good on him.
Now, as Michael Gove would have predicted, as soon as the exam results went down, the vested interests, frothing at the mouth, launched another assault on the Education Secretary. “This is not right!” the teachers shouted last week after English GCSE results fell. Figures published by exam boards showed a modest decrease: the proportion of test papers graded an A dropped this year by 0.8 percentage points to 22.4 per cent and Cs were down by 0.4 percentage points to 69.4 per cent. The results are hardly falling off a cliff. In fact, the decreases need to be greater if we are to put the GCSE standard in line with the old ‘O’ Level. Michael Gove should keep working hard to meet this goal.
Teaching unions have sent letters to to the Education Secretary demanding he take action (in their minds they wish he had taken no action to begin with). This, of course, is just a proxy war in the their fight against pension reforms, academies and free schools. But not all schools saw GCSE results fall. A friend of mine, who is a school governor, said her school’s English GCSE results went up by 9%!
Frankly, if you are teaching pupils who don’t know who Neil Armstrong was, teachers have proven the point: they should be educating more and campaigning less. Detention for all of them.

Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

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