Monday, 17 September 2012

4 reasons why Gove's GCSE reforms discriminate against the poor, ill, vulnerable and ethnic minorities

Gove-Levels are an exercise in egotism, cruelty and elitism. There is nothing about Gove-Levels that will give children a more holistic educational experience, or make Britain more competitive economically. Gove's planned reforms discriminate against the poor, the ill, those with emotional difficulties and those from an ethnic minority background

Gove's plans to abolish the modular element to GCSEs and replace it with a one off examination rewards cramming, and actually punishes well behaved students who show consistency over the two years. Current methods of continuous assessment help mitigate against the very many personal problems young adults begin to experience more frequently after they turn 16. Too often, teachers reading this will agree I'm sure, have good pupils faltered at the last educational hurdle because of relationship, family, emotional or economic difficulties. Creating a one-off exam at the very end of studies cannot be said to accurately measure a student's ability in a particular subject. This change is devoid of compassion and shows how little Michael Gove understands the real world.

So too, stretching the length of an exam to 3 hours also makes the examinations more unequal. Evidence shows that poorer children with less nutrition will struggle to maintain mental stamina.  Children who grow up in high rise flats from birth will have much weaker fine motor skills than children who have enjoyed healthy outdoor climbing and active pursuits from birth. A crucial report into poverty in Chicago found that poorer children with less access to climbing frames, swings and other play equipment had under developed fine motor skills (here). Other reports which reached the same conclusion on the link between poverty and the under-development of fine motor skills can be found (here & here). If one wishes to understand more about the impact of poverty on education, there is probably no better place to start than the website 'It's the poverty stupid'. Expecting inner-city children to hold a pen for 3 hours, and write furiously to reach that mythical 'gold standard' will punish those who over the years do not have the necessary endurance in their hands due to health and income inequalities.

Abolishing exam boards, so that only the chosen board with the perceived "golden standard" remains the last one standing, is wrong for many reasons. I have worked for all the exam boards for a decade now, and all boards have their various strengths. The old Qualifications Curriculum Authority, before Gove stupidly scrapped it, successfully made sure common guidelines were adhered to by all 4 major boards, and that particular skills were assessed by all boards. This was carried out effectively. Occasionally, I hear a Tory argue "ahh but you can get an A by scoring 66 with exam board B but you need to get 70 with exam board C to achieve an A". This is daft reasoning since the mark schemes and grade awarding meetings will ensure that there is broad convergence between the exam boards, so in effect the proportion of pupils achieving A with both boards will be more or less the same.  Besides,  the boards associated with rigour are not always accessible to ethic minorities in the language they use in the exams. The gold standard boards tend to use texts, contexts and sources that have a distinct bias towards children of a white conservative background. Gove's known to favour particular boards over others, but the ones the Tories are particularly scornful of are streets ahead in making the examinations fair and accessible to all. 

Changing the % who achieve A  grades if it was done in isolation would merely be an exercise in comestics. There will always be a first and a last. The grades are simply a measure to rank pupils performance. Tories over obsession and criticism of the percentage achieving A grades was always a bit daft. If Gove wants to make exams tougher so that a grade B is the new A, employers will quickly adjust their expectations accordingly. To the outside world, however, he will simply send a message that our children's standards are falling. This will make it harder for us to compete internationally. His other idea in swapping grades for numbers is simply more comesitics. 

4 comments:

Dylan Burns said...

Couldn't agree more.

SadButMadLad said...

So basically you are saying that poor people are thick? And they can't blame themselves for it? Not very progressive is it?

Well not everyone is poor all the time. People move in and out of different economic levels. Rich people go bankrupt, poor people get jobs.

I have the view that everyone has different levels of academic intelligence. Some people are more physical and can use their hands, others are very good with logical things, and yet others are very good creating things. Everyone is different. We need tests that stream (nasty word that on the progressive left) pupils into different categories depending on their abilities.

Your opinion seems to be that everyone should be the same - the same educational levels of lowest common denominator of the minority.

Surprisingly the vast majority of pupils did very well, only a minority didn't do that well. Was that because they were only taught just enough to just pass the exams or were they not as academically qualified as others. I have the view that it was the former as teachers teach to the exam, not to teach pupils to learn.

SadButMadLad said...

So basically you are saying that poor people are thick? And they can't blame themselves for it? Not very progressive is it?

Well not everyone is poor all the time. People move in and out of different economic levels. Rich people go bankrupt, poor people get jobs.

I have the view that everyone has different levels of academic intelligence. Some people are more physical and can use their hands, others are very good with logical things, and yet others are very good creating things. Everyone is different. We need tests that stream (nasty word that on the progressive left) pupils into different categories depending on their abilities.

Your opinion seems to be that everyone should be the same - the same educational levels of lowest common denominator of the minority.

Surprisingly the vast majority of pupils did very well, only a minority didn't do that well. Was that because they were only taught just enough to just pass the exams or were they not as academically qualified as others. I have the view that it was the former as teachers teach to the exam, not to teach pupils to learn.

Charley said...

the problem with strict streaming like that is when do you do it? What if someone identified as an 'academic' at 10 decides they want to be a writer or a 'vocational' turns out at 14 to have simply been struggling due to dyslexia? My sister for example who until 7 couldn't read but then in 6 months went from a reading age of 3 to a reading age of 10 or myself who wasn't formally diagnosed as dyslexic and dyspraxic until I was at university and severely under-achieved at school as a result of that lack of diagnosis(came out with 11 B and C grade GCSE's and 3 C grade A-levels despite being predicted A*'s and A's and being told I should be considering Oxbridge when I was younger).

Some streaming is not a bad idea but to rigidly impose it and to do it with the aim, not of allowing less academically able students to learn at a pace suited to them so they achieve their best with more targeted support but, of keeping them out of the way of the 'smart kids' until they hit 16 or 18 and can be farmed of into low wage low aspiration jobs is ludicrous.