Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sit down, shuttup: it's GCSE English

This is Ofqual's consultation document for GCSE:

I think this represents the final break with liberal and humane ideas about 15 and 16 year olds' abilities. It is a clear attempt to say to teachers, parents and students that 'English' equals writing.

By demanding this, the government downgrades drama, film and media studies, talking and listening. In one stroke, this means eliminating a) co-operative and collaborative learning and b) a key area of the students' expertise and knowledge: film and media c) expressive and collaborative arts (ie drama)  in relation to language.

No English teacher will be in any doubt about the effect of this on the so-called 'less able' students. They will find the English course harder, they will find a great deal more of the course harder to do. When we look at the Ofqual document, they make this explicit. Fewer people will get A-C grades. This isn't some haphazard consequence: it is the precise objective of the whole 'reform'. This government wants fewer students to get A-C.

Why? Why should this matter to them? They will justify it with these bizarre, empty words like  'robust' and 'rigorous' but I don't believe this for a moment. Employers, colleges and universities don't have any problem about judging the abilities and skills of the people who apply to their institutions and firms. If they do, they can run their own tests - as indeed many do.

The real reason for all this is down to the point we have reached in society, the era we are in. We are living at a moment where the decision has been made that the UK can only survive financially in the world on the basis of having an extremely low wage economy, with no job security. One way to assist this process is to release on to the labour market each year, people with low grade qualifications or none. To bring this about, you have to produce a) a tiny elite b) a large cohort of failures.

That is what these 'reforms' are really about. Schools are being made into the servants of an economic imperative that is bringing poverty and hardship to millions while the superrich are increasing their wealth. The dynamic going on in the way people in this country receive money is that the sector of people who gain a living through wages are proportionately losing ground to the sector who make money through profits. The ratio of profits to wages is changing in favour of profits.

This is the hard grinding reality behind 'austerity', behind the cuts in the welfare state.

All that Ofqual have done is ensure that their 'reforms' fit into these changes. It represents how this government has made a strategic decision in relation to all of us and this has created the environment in which the government's willing slaves (Ofqual etc) bow to the wind.

Removing arts subjects from the way schools are measured, then removing talk from English is a clear attempt to turn schools into assembly lines for segregating school leavers for the sake of employers.

The 'reforms' won't 'raise standards', they won't make students more willing to learn, or more able to learn. Precisely the opposite. The curriculum, the teachers, the students and the parents will be squeezed into a process in which sitting on your own writing is the sole marker of your abilities.

This is a massively backward step to take.