The Education Secretary has again found himself in the headlines recently, this time over his proposed changes to GCSEs.
Education is both a very emotive and a very important subject. We have all experienced education ourselves and many of us have continued that experience indirectly through brothers and sisters, or through children, nieces or nephews. We all want an education system that is best for those we hold dear. With our experiences, both good and bad, comes a catalogue of our own ideas for what works and what doesn’t.
To his credit, Michael Gove isn’t short of ideas. As a politician he seems well-read, he has his own inimitable oratorical style but he is totally out of touch with the reality of millions across the country.
Gove wants to drag education back to the 1950s with a system that replaces GCSEs with CSEs and O-levels. This would create two tiers in our education system and cap rather than lift the aspiration of young people across the country at an early age.
In Barnsley, I visit schools and speak with teachers on a weekly basis. I know that in our town, we face a constant battle to raise aspiration. The idea that we would tell a school child at the age of 11 that they weren’t good enough and that they should simply settle for second best, is the kind of approach that I never want to see back in our schools.
We are all entitled to our views on education. Gove can have his, but he should accept that he is on the wrong side of the argument. I will fight to ensure that our education system is progressive, not regressive, and that as your MP I am part of the process which enables schools to deliver a curriculum that is fit for purpose for our young people.
The Financial Times reported this week that the last Labour government narrowed the attainment gap with more students recieving A-C grades than ever before. This was not, as Gove would have us believer, because we “dumbed-down” the examinations schoolchildren sat. As headteachers will tell you, the reason the gap narrowed was because we diversified the system, invested in students, teachers and infrastructure.
It was an investment that, though not perfect, was working and that would work with continual progressive reform. Because our education system must equip our young people with the skills they need to thrive in a re-balanced, global economy.
Education is too important to too many of us to be used as a political stepping stone to the Conservative Party Leadership. Gove’s actions have created uncertainty in our schools and this announcement was handeled badly. I am grateful that he is well versed in the coalition art of u-turn and that, at least for now, these changes have little hope of becoming law. Our children deserve better.