This week 658,000 16 year olds received their GCSE results. For the first time since these exams were introduced the number of exams passed at grades A*-C has decreased. As someone who works in secondary education, I do not share the fury many teachers are directing at Michael Gove.
Whether or not political pressure was put on exam boards to downgrade GCSEs, this needed to happen. So many pupils are gaining the best grades at GCSE that the qualification itself is being devalued. Here are this year’s figures from BBC News:
When speaking to the BBC, Gove stressed, “The decision about where to set grade boundaries is made by exam boards. If you take English, then yes the number of As and A*s has fallen but the number of Bs has increased. The number of Cs has fallen and the number of Ds has increased. And that is the result of the independent judgements made by exam boards entirely free from any political pressure.”
While I can see that many teachers think these results make their hard work appear useless, I think the threat from some headteachers of legal action is ridiculous. The truth is our education system is not improving, as the results over the past 23 years from 1988 to 2011 may suggest. Comprehensive state education is woefully inadequate; it tries to be everything to all people. It is no coincidence that the schools with the best results in the country are either independent or grammar schools.
Something much more radical than downgrading GCSEs is needed to sort out our education system. After all, we’re gambling with pupils’ futures.
The backlash against Gove due to only a 0.4% decrease in results has overshadowed the real news: that many teenagers have still done exceptionally well. Congratulations to them.