By Liam Carr
Considering the sweeping changes that he is implementing, Michael Gove is not often in the news. (1) He quietly goes about his business making our education system more suited to a Britain that does not exist anymore. He is scrapping measures like modular exams and going back to end of year exams. This will penalise students who, though no fault of their own, have chaotic home lives.
Exams are already rigorous, especially in core subjects. If harder exams were his true aim then there are ways of implementing them that would be less costly and require fewer reforms. It would be simple to work with exam boards to ensure that all exams, even in other subjects, are as testing as those in English, Maths and Science.
Breaking the link between AS and A2 (the first and second year of A Levels) is a bizarre move. At present most students take four AS levels and then choose to take three on to A2. The current system is fairly inflexible in comparison to other systems. In the US students do a High School Diploma and don’t specialise until the first year of University. Students studying the International Baccalaureate take six subjects; three at higher level and three at standard level. Gove plans to go back to a system where two years work is assessed at the end of the course for both AS and A2. It is a backward step that makes no sense at all.
Gove has given one of his friends a peerage. This person will lead Gove’s reforms in the Lords and have some influence on education policy. Gove has not chosen a former teacher for the post, but a venture capitalist who has donated over £288 000 to the Tory Party and has a financial interest in free schools. (2) Gove, like Cameron, surrounds himself with sycophantic posh boys who will act in their own interests. (3)
Skilled politicians can be effective ministers even if they have no knowledge of the area they take charge of, as long as they create a knowledgeable and diverse team around them and are willing to listen to advice. Gove has done neither. He is out of touch and, thanks to his popularity in the Tory party, he is out of control.
Gove is not reforming for the sake of it. His reforms are just as poisonous as the NHS reforms. Both aim to give a slice of government funding, that should be spent educating children or healing the sick, to the shareholders of private companies.
The darling of the Tory party is not looking to take education forward. His wife wrote in the Times: “My husband is the worst driver in England, possibly the Western world… It took him seven attempts to pass his test.” He is stuck in the wrong gear, driving state education back to a time of inequality, and reversing years of progress.