I suspect there are precious few people out there who are not aware that Michael Gove wasn’t entirely happy with the current state of the GCSE system.
You’re probably also aware that when he first suggested he wasn’t happy with the current system, Nick Clegg, Joan Walmsley and I wasted no time in telling him that Liberal Democrats, a party who believe in social mobility, would not tolerate a return to a two tier education system.
What you may not be aware of is just how the two parties have been working since then to find a compromise that combines the shared objective of greater rigour with the Liberal Democrat commitment to social mobility.
The new policy represents coalition government at its best and painstaking hours have gone in to negotiating a compromise which brings together the best ideas of both parties and represents the best deal for pupils and parents.
Like the GCSE, the new qualification, the English Baccalaureate Certificate, will be available to the overwhelming majority of children at Key Stage Four. There is going to be no return to a two tier O-Level/CSE education system on the Lib Dems’ watch.
The Department of Education are consulting on ending the tiered papers which pupils from poorer backgrounds remain more likely to sit than their wealthier peers, and which cannot be rewarded with higher than a grade C. Unlike the old O-Level there will also be no cap on the number of pupils who can achieve a top grade.
The coalition is proposing to introduce a single exam board in the core academic subjects that form part of the school accountability system – English, Maths, Science, Humanities and Languages. This is to end the “race to the bottom” whereby exam boards have been competing by offering schools the easiest exams in these subjects.
The two coalition parties have worked together in identifying a problem and working towards a solution.
Liberal Democrats have also insisted on a period of general consultation, to ensure that teachers, parents and people from the education and business sectors will have the chance to contribute their expertise.
We can then move towards implementing important changes which will ensure the best outcomes for all students – not just the privileged few.
* Dan Rogerson is the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall.