The heady waft of future and assured pupil disengagement is already pungent only one day after the announcement of the new exam system. The wrong-headedness of the “reform” is enough to actually make you gasp.
Don’t get me wrong, I really do hate the personal anecdote–beloved of many politicians and responsible in my view for so much political damage (and used to the usual effect yesterday in that disturbing article in the Evening Standard).
But here’s one. My elder son recently gained 11 A stars in his GSCEs. He is a very academic child, as I was. But as he did his coursework and his modules, I was actually envious of him. Envious because the scope that he covered in each subject and the different methods and styles of learning were ones that I had never experienced when I was at school. I had to wait for university for that luxury.
In addition he was able to use everyday resources both at home and in the classroom, such as the Internet, to supplement his learning and ensure that the coursework he did was really well researched. I think I had one text book to teach me all my history for O Level, for example. As he is at a 1,800-pupil, mixed comprehensive school, he had the ability to share and reflect on much of his studies as he prepared for his GCSEs with a large group of children from differing backgrounds with differing strengths. I attended an all girls, means-tested, direct grant school, with a narrow focus on academic achievement and cramming for exams.
Who was better educated at the age of 16, me or my son? I have absolutely no doubt that my son wins by a country mile and detest the fact that pupils in the future will be subject to the sudden death exam system that existed when I was growing up. The thing is it’s not what you know – tested at one moment in time – it is how you learn and how you acquire and maintain skills to equip you for life that is important.
This most recent announcement has rocked me in a way that I have no doubt others of you in the party have been rocked. My feeling is that this is one that simply has to be pulled back–whatever the cost.
* Helen Flynn is chair of the Social Liberal Forum, PPC for Harrogate & Knaresborough and a former Harrogate Borough councillor.