Thursday, August 21, 2008

Inflated GCSEs Let Everyone Down

The government's obsession with GCSE targets is an inflatable joke. They've let the schools down, they've let the pupils down and they've let themselves down.

Schools are playing the education system and fighting government obsession with league tables, to produce record GCSE results, to stave off closure and meet unrealistic targets. A view shared by the leader in  today's Independent.

With the spotlight on school league tables, today's GCSE results show more and more pupils are being entered for soft option and 'pointless' vocational subjects to boost results and school performance. The biggest jump in top grades since 1990, according to the BBC. 

Traditional tough subjects like physics and chemistry and being replaced by the easier combined science and languages shunned altogether. Single subjects are being rebranded as 'studies' which require less rigourous academic study.

Schools, afraid of being branded failures, are coming under increasing pressure, as the government tries to switch schools to its flagging Adonis academies programme - using PFI schemes to keep public spending off the balance sheet and handing control over to big business backers, sympathetic to the government. 

In June, it was highlighted by the Orange Party here, that the government is planning a cull of one in five secondary schools in England, unless they make the grade and hit the benchmark targets of 30% of pupils gaining five good GCSEs including maths and English. 

In a desperate attempt to boost targets, the government has already threatened to take funding away from so-called 'specialist schools', which promote themselves in areas like arts, technology, unless they deliver.

These schools face being stripped of funding and placed under the control of New Labour sympathisers as part of the 're-education' process.

The 638 schools targeted are being unfairly stigmatised as 'failing' as an excuse to hand them over to the vast army of education consultants and bureaucrats in privately managed academies.

Teaching unions are rightly indignant and reject this "focus on failure and closure".

Meanwhile, the government is trying to massage the GCSE figures by introducing course-work modules and more retake opportunities for students. 

In an attempt to produce a meaningful 16+ examination and counter the spin, some schools have started to switch pupils to the International GCSE which is more akin to the old 'O' level.

Today's artificial 'record' GCSE results come hard on the heels of last week's artificial 'record' A-level results. Both spun in a desperate attempt to prop up the government's failed education policies which are failing our children. 

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