I have not felt as strongly about an issue in education as I have felt about Michael Gove’s proposed English Baccalaureate Certificates…ever. I emailed colleagues from my present and past schools to encourage them to respond to the DfE consultation. I took to Twitter to encourage all my teacher friends and followers to respond. And I responded myself on behalf of my school.
I found the process of responding to the consultation a particularly disenchanting experience. The obtuseness of the questions they were asking felt like an episode of Yes, Minister. The assumption behind the questions was that the EBC proposal would be enacted, and that we were only being consulted about the how. As I said in response to question 28 of the consultation:
The response was easy to find and understand. The proposal was clear. However, the consultation is mainly focused on matters of technicality and implementation. I was hoping for more of an opportunity to respond to the principles and ideologies of the proposal. This consultation assumes that the proposal will be implemented as it stands. I hope, with all my heart, that it will not be. If it is, it will do irreparable damage to the self-esteem, educational experience, and life-chances of a generation of young people.
There are two drivers to my objection. The first is my own children, the eldest of whom is in Year 2. I do not want him to be subjected to the kind of education that the EBCs will encourage. The second is my own educational philosophy. I do not want to be the person that subjects other to the kind of education that EBCs will encourage. Here is my response to question 18(a):
The proposals have the potential for adverse impact on all pupils. Lower attaining pupils will become disenfranchised from an education system which will lack a meaningful outcome for them. Students who excel and achieve in practical or vocational subjects will see those subjects devalued and squeezed into marginal positions in the curriculum. Students who are capable of taking the EBCs will be forced into a curriculum which emphasises the recall of factual knowledge over the application of transferable skills, and which encourages an outdated, unimaginative and punitive pedagogy from schools. I cannot conceive of a pupil group for whom the introduction of EBCs would have a positive impact.
In particular, I find the notion of the “Statement of Achievement” abhorrent, an in response to question 16 on that topic I responded:
I find the “Statement of Achievement” the most divisive and odious element of this whole proposal. No matter how it is dressed up or “sold”, there will be no avoiding the perception that the Statement of Achievement is, in fact, a statement of failure. Students benefit from actual achievement, not a statement declaring by its very nature what they have failed to achieve. Any qualification in the education system should be inclusive and allow for the achievement of all. No student could conceivably benefit from this proposal.
I could go on.
In forwarding the link to the consultation documents to colleagues past and present, I was haunted by Michael Gove’s statement (reported here) to the Education Select Committee when asked what he would do in response to Ofqual’s concern about the EBCs:
He told the committee he would be willing to overrule Ofqual and press ahead if he believed the changes were right: “If they still had concerns and I still believe it is right to go ahead then I would do it, and on my head be it.”
Simply this. If I hadn’t bothered, I would have been complicit in allowing the sabotage of education in this country. Because the impact of the EBCs will not be on Mr Gove’s head, it will be in the desecration of the educational experience of thousands of young people. And I refuse to stand by and allow that to happen