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Michael Gove rebuffs calls for a GCSE remark

12 September 2012

Michael Gove faced a tough grilling from MPs on the Education Select Committee this morning about the row over GCSE English results. But the Education Secretary gave as good as he got, launching a fierce attack on the Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews for putting children in Wales at what he said was a disadvantage by ordering a remark of the papers. He told the packed committee room:
‘I believe that the children who have been disadvantaged are children in Wales. I think the decision by the Welsh education minister, Leighton Andrews, is irresponsible and mistaken. And I think that he has undermined confidence in Welsh children’s GCSEs and I think that he should think again about having made with I regard to be a regrettable political intervention in what should be a process free from political meddling.’
He insisted that to call for a remark of the papers would make him the chief examiner:
‘It would destroy the reputation of the regulator. We would have a situation where a politician would be responsible for making children’s papers and we would have a politician as chief examiner… I think that’s wrong.’
There was also a rather entertaining exchange between the secretary of state and the committee chair Graham Stuart, who, like most committee chairs, took issue with the number of leaks emanating from the department. Gove managed to perform quite a precise dance around how his plans to reform GCSEs were leaked to the media. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, he told Stuart, adding that he preferred to take a philosophical view of these matters.

But his evidence this morning underlined why that leak went straight to the front page of the Daily Mail: the GCSE system is in need of reform. An announcement on what those reforms will look like is due in the next few weeks.

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  • Marcus

    An irony of Gove’s policy is that it will result in the Left inadvertently achieving one of their most hate-fuelled dreams of all time: the abolition of Public schools.
    As public school fees rise above inflation and become increasingly out of reach for most of the middles class, free-schools will concomitantly be improving and growing in number. The public school will become the reserve of foreign pupils and the super rich.
    Leftist will finally realise their dream and few of the British middle classes will be sent to ‘elitist’ public schools.

    However their children will instead go to free schools and not be subjected to ever worsening Comprehensive school eduction. So ultimately the status quo for middle class children will be maintained.

    The hardest thing for the left to swallow will be that children from sink estates will also be subjected to these improved academic institutions, and may in fact progress in socio-economic standards, like in the 50’s & 60’s, when they had O-levels.

    • SirMortimerPosh


      While you are right that Gove’s policy will end many private schools (King’s School at Tynemouth is becoming an academy after about 140 years as a private school) the idea that kids from sink estates would become better pupils if only they could meet a private school teacher is utterly contemptible rubbish. Savage children are savage because of they way they are brought up; so are the merely moronic yobs who populate some inner city classrooms. Reading your comments, I am forced to ask myself why the world is so full of deluded fools.

  • Marcus

    Why I like Gove:
    He doesn’t have to rename GCSEs. He could just make them more like O-levels and keep the name. There have been many changes to GCSEs since their inception, but the name has always stayed the same.

    However the fact that he wants to do this, which is very provocative to the Left, is precisely why I like him. This is his way of saying he is not ‘tweaking’, He is over hauling the catastrophic and appalling state of affairs that state school children, predominantly from the least affluent areas, have been subjected to after years of Socialist experimentation and decline in standards when compared to the rest of Europe’.

    God bless him. The Left hate him, which can only mean he is getting it right.
    He meets them head on and announces it publicly, rather than skirting around like IDS and Lansley, and that is one of the reasons why he is more successful.

    • SchoolForScandal

      Marcus is spot on.

      Gove is the only Tory capable of successfully pursuing a coherent set of policies (much as I admire IDS, I think he will fail with his welfare reforms).

      As a unreconstructed Blairite, I recognise Gove’s abilities, and that’s why I’ll do my best to bring the man down.
      The fact that he’s a shill for Murdoch and his money can be left for another day.

      • telemachus

        Teachers rightly hate Gove
        His destruction of the cooperation ethos of our schools is breeding attitudes of selfishness last seen in the eighties

        • SirMortimerPosh

          I worked in a successful comprehensive. It was never terribly into cooperation, not unless it brought us distinct advantages. In fact, we were very competitive in trying to get the best results in the city outside the selective independent schools. We did very well in the city exam league table because we had a substantial population of pupils who hailed from families with professional parents. These kids did extremely well boosting our performance hugely. We also had about thirty percent – perhaps thirty-five percent who came from deprived backgrounds, mostly single parent families from a run down working-class district. It was among these pupils that we found our greatest challenges and intractable discipline problems. The same teachers taught these children as taught the others. The same school, the same management, the same ethos. The differences in outcome were however rather stark. Sheaves of A* GCSEs and A grade A levels for one cohort, and GCSE D-F for the others. We worked our butts off for all of them. However, some were pretty much ineducable and made life hell.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      It is all very well to pi ss off the left – I love doing it, but it is nonsense to put the decline in the culture of our cities down to left wing experimentation in education. It is a wholesale problem of society at large, not of schools. Private schools do well because the children in them come from homes where parents care about learning and success. So do the pupils at comprehensive’s in leafy suburbs. Those in the inner cities are full of pupils who have not only been dragged up by stupid people – usually serial single mothers, who had no education, no brains and no concept of culture outside a packet of fags and a bottle of Lambrini in front of the TV. We have a vast slum society in most of our inner cities and it produces horrid, ignorant scum children, who come to schools with massive problems. The people who work in them are systematically beaten up in the press, and sometimes in reality by scabrous parents and relatives when they attempt to instill discipline. An individual that I know, was beaten in front of his class by a thug relative and made to kneel and beg forgiveness for putting a boy in detention. The fact that the miscreant went to jail for this, made no difference. the guy was a wreck afterwards.

      • Marcus

        I presume that most of your post is a joke, but anyway.
        My father came from a sink estate (tiger bay) and got into a good school and raised himself our of poverty.
        So that really negates most of the above.
        However, I agree that discipline at school can only do so much, but it is a start.
        What else can the state do?
        IDS is trying to reverse years of anti-family social engineering endorsed by the state and state sponsored TV but it is a hard culture to reverse. At least the new system will give people from sink estates the opportunity to rise out of poverty in good schooling. Even if their circumstances encourage them not to take it. It is a step in the right direction: if better discipline is more prevalent in free schools, at least these children will experience some boundaries at some time during their childhood, can’t be a bad thing.

        • SirMortimerPosh

          Well, of course there are exceptions, but the fact that you can quote an anecdote about your father, does nothing to negate the mass of data that exists, never mind the forty years experience of my own that I mentioned. Of course some pupils from sink estates come good – the point I was making was that the issue in our school of performance in exams and readiness to be educated was not an issue of the school, or the staff, since we were the best performing comprehensive school in a large city, but we saw radically different outcomes from pupils with supportive and unsupportive backgrounds. The point is that it is parental education and attitude – the warp and weft of upbringing that correlate with educational success, not particular models of schooling. There seems to be an idea abroad, that teachers are some mutant tribe dead set on failing their pupils. I worked in and managed a very large comprehensive – we certainly came across people in the job we thought would be better off never coming back into a classroom, but they were a tiny minority – well below 5%. Of course, young initiates into the profession get better in time as they gain experience, but we sailed through our OFSTED inspections and were complimented on ethos, management and quality of teaching. This made no difference (in general)to the outcomes for kids dragged up by feckless parents and semi criminal scum, or the large number of unemployed and unemployable permanent welfare recipients. They passed on incorrigible attitudes and an abhorrence of hard work.

          I have a lot of time for IDS. He is right. Work does need to pay. Welfare can not be a permanent way of life for able bodied people. I’d go much further than he would actually in ending the something for nothing culture. My objection to current Conservative education policy is the ridiculous assumption that a different form of management will solve the problems posed by trying to educate a lumpen mass of inner city welfare dependent families.

          The biggest problem in education is that because everyone has at some time been to school, people with no idea at all, seem to think they are experts in the education of the young. The world and his wife think they have the perfect solution. They are no more likely to be right than they would be if they were pontificating about a cure for cancer. Gove has no more idea about how to educate than Balls did.

          • Marcus

            It is not an example to illustrate an exception, it is an example to illustrate that what is required by the state is provide opportunity. The child must have the opportunity to go to a school with good teaching and discipline.

            You’re analogy about the cure for cancer is a nonsense.
            If it were the case, that in the Victorian times, there was a cure for cancer and doctors then decided to become useless and interfere with this cure ‘to make it better’ often using their own deluded and vain pseudo-intellectual ethos, with no scientific evidence to back it up; and cancer survival in the U.K. plummeted in relation to other European countries. Then yes, doctors should be ignored and it would be a good bet that a well meaning plumber’s opinion on cancer cures would be as valid as the useless medical profession’s.

            It was the TUC and the hopeless left/liberal leaning teachers (sorry: ‘learner facilitators’) that ruined education for the poor in this country. They only have themselves to blame for the fact that they are interviewed by 6 year old ‘learners’ sitting on bean bags in ‘open classrooms’ for their jobs. They deserve it and far more for their betrayal of the young, they should reap what they sowed and they are.

            It is difficult to interfere at home, we can’t make hopeless parents better with ‘parenting classes’ but we can put their children into an institution for 5 days a week with discipline, small class sizes, boundaries and the chance to learn.
            The other factors that you identify as standing in the way of further progress are another matter, which are being tackled, but are far more complicated.
            There is nothing wrong with the Conservative view that good schools will help the disadvantaged, it worked in the past and it is one tool that can be used to unlocking the desperate situation many of the sort of people you described find themselves in.

            • SirMortimerPosh

              You are preaching to the converted when you say to me that children deserve and must have good teaching in a disciplined effective environment. I and 98% of my colleagues worked our butts off to provide and insist on exactly that, in my case between 1971 and 2011. The idea that it was teachers who weakened discipline is risible. WE were notified of regulation after regulation by one tribe of politicians after another diluting our ability to enforce decent standards. Latterly, under Labour, schools were told not to arrange detentions without gaining parental permission in advance and were unable even to expel the worst of violent trouble makers. For years in fact the financial penalties of expelling a total nutcase had been horrific. We lost the entire pupil payment for the year that that kid brought in, AND had to pay the entire cost of his education elsewhere. No head could expel under such circumstances. For decades, we were forced by local education authorities to accept pupils expelled by other schools. We had no powers to refuse and we had one moronic criminal after another forced on us. Nevertheless at my school, by hook and by crook we maintained discipline to the extent that our OFSTED reports always judged us to have good discipline. I think you are talking through your hat Marcus old chap. I don’t think you have any substantial contact with schools, especially inner city schools and are simply parroting something you picked up from watching Waterloo Road or read in the Daily Mail. I don’t deny that there are some poor schools, but the vast majority of them are run well and the staff work extremely hard to provide excellence for their pupils. I sent my own sons to my school. They are all well qualified graduates and are earning very substantial salaries in their twenties and early thirties. That was how much confidence i had in my school and it was not misplaced. Your broad brush condemnation is the result of being badly informed and parroting prejudiced nonsense. By the way – under Labour, OFSTED would declare a school a failing institution if EVERY scarp of ludicrous Labour micro-management was not applied to the letter right across the institution. I had a six inches pile of ludicrous paperwork passing across my desk every couple of months from Labour, dreamed up by fools like Ed Balls, dictating every aspect of school life. They swamped us with garbage initiatives and then dropped them as they proved serially worthless. However, had OFSTED found us wanting in applying them, we’d have been in trouble double quick.

              • Marcus

                Although I agree with a lot of what you say, I do have some issues.
                Ostensibly, I conclude from your posts that the problems with educating British children from deprived areas are due to social problems related to the impoverished circumstances of the children and the lack of parental guidance or even the malignant influence of their parents / care workers.
                Schools can’t really impact on this.
                What little schools could do in the way of installing discipline and encouraging learning has been eroded away by the state through organisation such as the DOE and OFSTED. All of which is out of the hands of the teachers. Furthermore I can not comment on the above, as I am not a teacher.

                Where to start?

                Institutions are not capable of instilling discipline or learning if the pupil is not encouraged by loving middle class parents in a leafy suburb?

                Tell that to the army, who incidentally take people at a less malleable age.

                Now, maybe OFSTED did all the things you said, and maybe they are a pernicious bunch of Trotskyites (I am sure they are) but where was the ground swell of outrage from the teachers?
                Did the TUC strike when they came in and assessed your schools in such a farcical way?
                Or just when pensions were threatened?

                When exams got better every year in one of the most internationally embarrassing examples of the Socialist hegemony in this country.
                When people across Eastern Europe woke up to hear Prescott or Brown saying ‘Our education IS better, look we have better grades than last year, and the year before and the year before.’
                They must have thought themselves ‘Well even in the worst days of Stalin they didn’t try crap like that’.

                What did the TUC do? What did the NAHT do?
                Every year did they put out a press release saying ‘Although we are proud of our students we are deeply concerned that exams grades are improving year on year as it risks devaluing our educational system’?
                Or did they do nothing and just keep quite as the farce evolved?

                Did the NAHT or TUC speak up when our illiteracy rates fell year on year despite the ‘improved exam results’ ? Did you call for a return to traditional teaching methods, which after all had been proven to work ?
                Remember you actually do the teaching bit and it was that that was failing.
                Nope. You just continued with PBL and other such nonsense.

                When discipline fell in schools did the TUC and NAHT ask the public to support them securing controls to discipline children and allow them to learn?
                Or were teachers, by and large, a cohort of wet liberals who support parties such as the SDP?

                Ask yourself, are modern teachers the sort who say: ‘Call me sir, tuck your shirt in and eat what’s on your plate’ or are they more synonymous with ‘Hey, call me Pete, wear what you like, eat at the Dominos and don’t read the Mail it is bigoted stuff man.’ ?
                I can assure it is the latter.

                If you think that is just modernisation then compare to the modern day image of a solder or a judge. Their reputation, how they dress and the respect they command is very similar to past days and that’s why standards haven’t fallen. You lot abandoned gowns years ago.

                How on earth could anyone who lived in the anarchic environment you described at your school, witnessing the destruction to our society of state sponsored fatherless, weak ‘caring’ policing and the devastation this has brought and think that we needed was a more permissive society with out traditional values, more liberalism, more government centralisation?

                Yet that is precisely what Labour and the Lib Dems stand for and your hopeless colleagues supported them time and time again.

                Let’s take another example; broadly is the nasty Daily Mail in favour of raising age thresholds for children to be exposed to violet films or films of sexual content; or lowering them? What about the liberal Guardian? Where do they stand on the issue?

                No sir, I may not be a teacher but I know many (some of whom have been interviewed by pupils for their job) and have seen the products of your industry and I stand by my previous posts. While you maybe a decent teacher who tried his best, your colleagues were not just submissive to the evils of the Marxists in the DOE and OFSTED, your colleagues were in league with them and the few that weren’t, seldom raised their head above the parapet.
                You would have public support from nasty right wing papers like the Mail, who would always welcome a return of high standards and discipline, however you derided and sneered at the Mail; you were weak and wanted to be seen as intellectual and progressive and so threw your lot in with the Guardian and generations of children suffered.
                As I said before I have no sympathy for teachers only their pupils. It is a good thing that a politician has finally stood up and taken control out of your hands. After all, particularly when it came to educating children from deprived back grounds, you were doing a very very bad job.

  • Publius

    “committee chair”

    Committee chairman, FFS!

    • ReefKnot

      Yes, I cannot take seriously anybody who regards themselves as a piece of furniture.
      It is Chairman or Madam Chairman.

    • ReefKnot

      Yes, I cannot take seriously anybody who regards themselves as a piece of furniture.
      It is Chairman or Madam Chairman.

  • SchoolForScandal

    Since Gove’s entire political objective was to ‘undermine confidence in GSCEs’ and replace the qualification with something else, he’s reason enough to feel smug.


      I, of course, took O levels.

    • Nicholas

      And what’s your political objective?

      • SchoolForScandal

        To hound Gove out of office.

        • Archimedes

          Why? Did you get a D instead of a C? It will probably wreck your life. The first thing an employers asks in an interview is always: “Are you a D student, or a C student? We only take the best here, so no no no, no D students.”

          I feel your pain, you’ll end up living in squalor for the rest of your life because you did get given the grade your teacher promised. You won’t be able to go to university, or even do your A-levels. People will mock you in the street and stamp “D-Student” on your forehead, and spit on you. It’s all over. No job. No prospects. Just a piece of paper that marks you for life as “below average”. In five years time you’ll be lying in a sleeping bag in Hull with “Gove ruined my life” scribbled on a piece of paper above you – if only you could spell, or afford a pen and paper. You’ll recoil in the horror of past miseries every time you see the letter ‘C’. You’ll end up depressed, but not even the NHS will offer you treatment because they’ll know that you were a “D-Student” – and we’ll have a register of all the under-performers by then, marked for early termination.

          Good luck with getting Gove out of office, by the way. Oh, and by the way: you’re full of shit, in case that point eluded you.

          • SchoolForGCSEs

            Fucking idiot – I left school in 1974.

          • alexsandr


        • Nicholas

          Thank you. My work is done. Your agenda stands exposed. You are not interested in improving the education of children. You just want to “hound out of office” a legitimately appointed minister in a duly elected government.

          • SchoolForScandal

            Oh no, have I got an agenda, Nicholas? Shame on me!
            It’s called politics – something that Gove knows only too well.

            As for improving the education of children, I do have a legitimate interest, as my two sons are attending primary school.

            Since the 1960s, successive governments have tinkered with the status of schools, the curriculum, examinations – the list is almost endless. If you really know what’s best for kids, then congratulations – you’re a better man than I.

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