Interview: James Lane comments on Michael Gove’s proposed changes to GCSE’s

During my time doing work experience at Exclusive Magazines in Buckinghamshire, I was asked to write a piece commenting on Michael Gove’s proposed changes to the GCSE system. In order to comment on this, I interviewed numerous people to comment on what they thought would be the effects of these modifications.

Dr. James Lane, previous headteacher for Welbourne Primary School in North London, provided some fascinating insights into the effects this would have on students. James is now the Director for Education at Pora Ora, a virtual world that encourages children to learn skills such as problem solving whilst they enjoy enthralling adventures.

1) As someone with experience of being a head teacher and therefore working closely with GCSE students, how do you think the proposed reforms would affect the students?

No-one could argue with the desire to improve the education system and, therefore, the assessment procedures associated with them.

However, where I feel the Secretary of State for education has a flaw in his thinking is in relation to the ‘rose tinted view’ he takes of what he terms ‘traditional’ approaches. To me it is interesting that education is subject to this level of thinking from politicians. No one responsible for health and the NHS is recommending a return to ‘traditional methods’ of medicine – people understand that new methods, thinking and research has moved the field on and the same can be said for education. It would appear (and evidence would support this) that Gove is not listening to his education advisors. Instead he is forging ahead with notions he feels are a good idea. Such an approach is seriously problematic for the education system as a whole.

The proposed two tier approach to the GCSE replacement is of concern for a number of reasons;
· who decides who goes in for the lower tier of examination?
· is it acceptable that we are judging a young person’s entire future and capabilities from the ages 14 – 16?
· what happens to the people who slip through the net when they could potentially be capable of doing the higher paper for whatever reason?

The problem with a two tiered structure is putting a ceiling on progress at such an early point in a young person’s education. I can see the next step being that those who sat the lower tier exam papers are then refused entry on A level courses, impacting on university entrance / acceptance.
There are countless examples of people not doing so well at GCSE and then coming out at a A level with very respectable A levels. A two tier system punishes this and wouldn’t allow it.

2) Do you think any type of reform to the GCSE system is necessary and if so, why?

Yes – reform is required. What we need is a system that raises the aspirations of pupils and supports them in achieving what is appropriate for them. Not a system that encourages schools to ‘game’ the system to the detriment of the young people they serve.

3) If you don’t agree with Gove’s reform, what would you suggest as an alternative?

The updated approach needs to take into account the principles of ‘intelligent accountability’ – the main tenant of this approach is that much that has is important and has to be accounted for in education is not easily measured and cannot be boiled down to a set of stock performance indicators. Whatever the new approach – this should be at the heart of it.

4) If you do agree, what do you think are the benefits of his plans?

There are elements of Gove’s proposals that I agree with – the aspiration for pupils and adding rigor to the assessment procedures for example – but in general his reforms require a major rethink.

I will be posting my published article on Michael Gove’s reform in September once the new edition of Exclusive Magazines has been printed.

What do you think about Gove’s proposals?


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