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NEWS FOCUS

QUALIFICATIONS

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has scrapped his plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) in favour of revamping the existing qualification. The U-turn came after significant criticism from education professionals, including the NAHT, and the Commons education committee. Russell Hobby, the Association’s General Secretary, welcomed the decision, but drew attention to ongoing concerns about the future of the assessment system. “We support much of what Mr Gove has announced today but remain concerned about some of the details of the proposals to revamp GCSEs,” he said. “We support [Shadow Education Secretary] Stephen Twigg’s calls for a cross-party consensus based on expert evidence to get the right assessment system in place for our children. In particular, we need to consult the profession and take our time.” Steve Iredale, President of the NAHT, added: “If there is a reduction in the coursework element, which is massively important to many young people, then we might have a problem. This might be the start of change, but I worry that the Secretary of State is not minded to take any notice of what the profession is advising.” However, Mr Hobby agreed with Mr Gove on the need for a rigorous system of examinations that reflects the demands of life in the 21st century. “So, for example, we welcome the news that internal assessment will remain for practical subjects such as science,” he said. “We also see the benefits to the curriculum of keeping more than 6

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E Bacc scrapped but questions remain

Michael Gove

one exam board, as this will encourage schools to teach a more diverse range of subjects.” Mr Gove’s initial proposals included the idea that each GCSE should be set by only one exam board – a move that he had hoped would stop different boards competing to offer easier exams. When he announced the reversal, he said that this particular proposal had been “a bridge too far”. However, he still expects tougher GCSEs to come in for some key subjects from 2015. The General Secretary continued: “We also support changes to the current system of league table measurements which pin schools down to arbitrary targets and limit imaginative teaching. “Measuring attainment across a combination of eight subjects, rather than five, will have a real effect on the way schools look at their pupils. This could be a good thing, but schools will need time to adapt. “As to the curriculum... teachers and school leaders have always known what will inspire pupils.”

Education is not for profit Profit-making schools are unpopular, ineffective and incompatible with the ethics and ideals of a universal state education system, said Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT. “There is no public appetite for them, as parents are rightly suspicious of their effects on pupils,” he said. “If a profit-making school excludes a pupil, for example, is it because they are genuinely disruptive, or are they just difficult to teach?” Mr Hobby was responding to reports that the Conservative party may consider introducing for-profit schools after the next election. The proposals, reported in The Independent, came from Bright Blue, a Conservative pressure group. Steve Iredale, the Association’s President, said schools should expect the proposals to be implemented if the Government is returned at the next election.“I doubt whether they can afford to run the academies programme as they are doing,” he said. FORCED ACADEMIES

Brokers apply more pressure Academy brokers from the DfE are still visiting schools across the country to persuade them that they should become academies, said Bernadette Hunter, NAHT Vice-President. “Members should contact headquarters or their regional officer for advice if a DfE broker requests a meeting with them,” she said. The NAHT website has a forced academies toolkit, while YouTube has a video about one school’s fight against the process: www.youtube. com/watch?v=ayP6I0Dkrsk

LEADERSHIP FOCUS ● MARCH/APRIL 2013

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