Our kids have not been ‘dumbed down’. The only fool here is Michael Gove

September 18, 2012

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make me furious, it’s hearing that exams over the past 20 years have been ‘dumbed down’.

Furious because I’m the mother of a child who excelled at GCSEs and got into an academically-selective school where the standards are extremely tough; but also furious because I’m the aunt of two kids at a comprehensive who achieved beyond expectations at GCSE because of sheer hard work. These kids and thousands like them have not been dumbed down. Far from it. Nor have they ‘cheated’ their way to good results.

I was at school under the two-tier exam system, where there were three kinds of education. Those who sat ‘O’-levels and were a dead cert for uni. Those who did mostly CSEs and would leave school at 16 to go into paid employment. And those who did the City and Guilds qualifications to learn a trade.

In a way, this system was fairer, because it meant that everyone got a chance to achieve. But it was also unfair, because it meant it was practically impossible for the kid earmarked early on for City and Guilds to become a kid that did ‘O’-levels and went to uni.

Of course uni isn’t everything, and it’s not for everyone. Kids should be given different options. But I would argue that the advantage of GCSEs is that they have been a great leveller, much fairer, because it has given children a greater chance of educational mobility.

And not all kids thrive in exams. Some kids find the pressure of exams too much.

What we’re returning to, if Michael Gove and Nick Clegg have their way, is a system where not all kids are treated as equals. Where not all kids will be given the same advantages as others. It is of course a system of elitism, and from this Government, why should we expect anything else?

But they’re forgetting something. All those kids who are 16 now are eligible to vote in two years time. They will, I’m sure, see what this Government is doing to their younger brothers and sisters and siblings.

And use their votes accordingly.

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  • Crystal Jigsaw September 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I wish someone would sack Gove. And the rest of the cabinet while they’re at it. I wrote about this when the changes were first proposed and mentioned how I felt kids should be treated more equally and given the same chances. It received a lot of mixed comments, some that think children are all different (true), and it’s not possible to give them equal opportunities. Kind of gave up on that one in the end! The government are doing so much to divide this country, not only with their educational proposals but with farming issues, too, something closer to my own heart. They’re going to cause a revolution before long, then will all bugger off to the Caribbean whilst we fight among ourselves. Arrogant idiots, the lot of ’em.

    CJ x

  • Glosswitch September 18, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I work in an education-related field and what really frustrates me is the total lack of nuance when discussing exams. I don’t think GCSEs are perfect – not because they’re “not hard enough” (whatever that means) – but because I’m not sure we’ve always thought through the best ways to develop and test specific skills and knowledge, which is surely what education’s about – not just ranking people! And you’re right – it is tremendously unfair on young people right now.