Saturday, August 25, 2012


There are many decisions this idiot government has made that have affected the lives of the young. The housing benefit cap and the reduction in child tax credits have undermined the stability of children and families; the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme and the sell-off of playing fields have reined in opportunities available to schoolchildren; and the raising of university tuition fees has restricted access to higher education. All of these have impacted on the start in life of countless young people; but the latest stupid move by the government has probably had the most immediate and pernicious effect of all.

This week’s GCSE results have revealed that the exam boards, under instruction from the regulator Ofqual, moved the grade boundaries for students sitting English between the January and May exams, without notifying schools. The result of this is that across the country, there are countless students who scored the same marks in May as their contemporaries did in January, but they have received a lower grade. The most marked effect of this has been on students who were expected to get a C grade and have now been awarded a D grade. Entry to sixth forms and colleges is dependent on at least a C grade in English and Maths. At the school in East Sussex where I teach English there are ten students who have been awarded a D grade when their marks were well within the grade boundary that would have secured a C grade in January. I understand that the position in some other schools across the county is a lot worse; this means that there are hundreds of young people in East Sussex whose immediate next steps in life have been severely affected at a stroke.

This has been done in the name of curbing grade inflation because it is widely accepted that GCSE students cannot continue to improve year after year. But why not? Why cannot success be extended to as many as possible? Because this is the nasty party and for people like Michael Gove equality of opportunity is anathema. And he can plead innocence as much as he likes but there has undoubtedly been government pressure brought to bear; I saw him on the news and he closed his eyes at the point he said he had not instructed Ofqual - sure sign of a lie. Years of improving state education and increasing numbers going to university have to be rolled back by the Tories. As Gore Vidal said, “it is not enough to succeed, others must fail”. Or, in other words, the lower orders must know their place.

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