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Thu Feb 7, 2013, 07:08 AM

Planned switch from GCSEs to Baccalaureate in England 'abandoned'


Plans to scrap GCSEs in key subjects in England and replace them with English Baccalaureate Certificates are being abandoned by the government.

The reversal was announced by the education secretary in the Commons, alongside curriculum changes.

Michael Gove said plans for the new exams had been "a bridge too far".

He had wanted to bring in what he said were more rigorous exams in some core subjects from 2015, but faced criticism from MPs and teachers.

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Reply Planned switch from GCSEs to Baccalaureate in England 'abandoned' (Original post)
T_i_B Feb 2013 OP
LeftishBrit Feb 2013 #1
non sociopath skin Feb 2013 #2
fedsron2us Feb 2013 #4
muriel_volestrangler Feb 2013 #3
non sociopath skin Feb 2013 #5
Nihil Feb 2013 #6
non sociopath skin Feb 2013 #7
LeftishBrit Feb 2013 #9
muriel_volestrangler Feb 2013 #8

Response to T_i_B (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 07:56 AM

1. Glad to hear this.

Seemed to be just more change for the sake of change. Even if one was going to change to a Bac system, why not use the existing International Baccalaureate - this was more of Gove trying to Make His Mark on things. Dare I hope that this signals a reduction in his power?

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Response to T_i_B (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 08:22 AM

2. I'd forgotten it was Gove's turn to do a U-turn this week.

Someone remind me whose turn it is next week.

Worst. Government. Ever.

The Skin

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Response to non sociopath skin (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 04:36 PM

4. At least we have had the U-turn before too much money has been wasted

No such luck with RTI PAYE and Universal Credits I am afraid.

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Response to T_i_B (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 01:20 PM

3. Also out today - national curriculum changes

Apparently 'slimmer'. Gove said:

In maths – learning from East Asia - there’s a stronger emphasis on arithmetic and more demanding content in fractions, decimals and percentages to build solid foundations for algebra.

In the sciences there’s rigorous detail on the key scientific processes from evolution to energy.

In English there’s more clarity on spelling, punctuation and grammar as well as a new emphasis on the great works of the literary canon and in foreign languages there’ll be a new stress on learning proper grammatical structures and practising translation.

In geography there is an emphasis on locational knowledge – using maps and locating key geographical features from capital cities to the world’s great rivers.

In history there is a clear narrative of British progress with a proper emphasis on heroes and heroines from our past.

In art and design there’s a stronger emphasis on painting and drawing skills, in music a balance between performance and appreciation.

And we have replaced the old ICT curriculum with a new Computing curriculum, with help from Google, Facebook, and some of Britain’s most brilliant computer scientists – and we have included rigorous Computer Science GCSEs in the Eng Bac.


Documents here: https://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/nationalcurriculum2014/

Some of which sounds OK, some of which sounds like a "1066 And All That" approach.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 05:30 AM

5. Sounds like "Back to the Fifties" to me.

When I hear the words, "great works of the literary canon," I reach for my revolver.

Introducing pre-twentieth century literature before students are able to cope with either the language or the concepts simply leads to aversion.

George Bernard Shaw said that he did not want his plays included in exam syllabi as he didn't see them as instruments of torture. He got that right!

The Skin

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Response to non sociopath skin (Reply #5)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 07:48 AM

6. Agree up to a point ...


> Introducing pre-twentieth century literature before students are able to cope
> with either the language or the concepts simply leads to aversion.

... but, on the other hand, introducing some of the dross that masquerades as
"twentieth century literature" before students is guaranteed to provoke aversion.

Having been introduced to Carol Ann Duffy by means of the mandatory parts
of the GCSE syllabus of my children, I totally sympathise with their disgust
that such crap is "preferred" over classics like Browning et al.

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Response to Nihil (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 03:58 PM

7. As someone who enjoys both Duffy and Browning ....

.... but who, even with a degree in English and thirty years experience teaching the subject, still finds the nuances of Mr. Browning challenging, I think there's room for both.

There's a wealth of well-written twentieth and early 21st century writing which I think would make a much more congenial portal into literature than, for example, "Jack of Newbury," an unbelievable piece of prose mediocrity from the 16th century which I remember from the A-Level syllabus in the bad old days. Better than Eliot? Better than Orwell? Better than Pinter?

I think not.

The Skin

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Response to non sociopath skin (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 03:36 PM

9. Agree - I enjoy both and think there is room for both!

I don't think that quality depends on being either new or old. There is excellent stuff, and rubbish, from all times.

I have to admit that I was mercifully spared 'Jack of Newbury', and until I googled it because of your post, had not even heard of it! Doesn't look as though I missed that much.

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Response to non sociopath skin (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:22 AM

8. That's what history teachers think - including Gove's own adviser, who was a Tory candidate

In a letter in the Observer signed by the presidents of the Royal Historical Society, the Historical Association, the higher education group History UK and senior members of the British Academy, Gove is condemned for drawing up the curriculum without substantive consultation with teachers and academics. They say that the curriculum as it stands fails to recognise that learning about the past of other peoples is "as vital as knowledge of foreign languages to enable British citizens to understand the full variety and diversity of human life".

Steven Mastin, head of history at a school in Cambridge, who worked alongside historian Simon Schama as an adviser to Gove, said the curriculum bore "no resemblance" to the drafts he worked on as late as last month. Mastin said he approved of Gove's aims in revamping the curriculum, but the proposed version failed to offer children the broad and balanced education that had been promised.

Mastin, who stood for the Tories at the last general election, said: "Between January and the publication of this document – which no one involved in the consultation process had seen – someone has typed it up and I have no idea who that is. It would be scary if we become the only nation in the western world to not teach anything beyond our shores."


"If we are talking about cultural literacy, let's ask what an appropriate cultural literacy is for the 21st century," said Professor Peter Mandler, president of the Royal Historical Society. "I would say it is not the same as the knowledge you needed to pass O-levels in 1956."

Mastin added: "There is no world history in there at all except when Britain bumps into these places. And age-appropriateness is something else to worry about. Children are expected to understand the complex problems of democracy, nation and civilisation by the age of six. The idea that they will understand the concept of civilisation by the age of six just doesn't work. I don't think this is a teachable document."

Gove's new curriculum offers children in primary and secondary schools a sweep of history, starting with stone age settlers in Britain, to be taught in the first years of primary school and, ending at the age of 18, with a look at the fall of empire, the rise of the Commonwealth and the country's relations with the "wider world", along with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In between, children at secondary schools can look forward to a romp through the life and times of Disraeli and Gladstone, Clive of India, the abolition of the corn laws, tales of gunboat diplomacy and the scramble for Africa.


School history (apart from a cursory glance at ancient Greece and the Russian, French and American revolutions) will be about one state only: Britain. Although the preamble refers to "outlines of European and world history", international affairs are viewed through a British lens. It is Our Island Story for the 21st-century child.

Chronology is obviously high on Gove's priorities – and reasonably so, since the squeeze on history teaching time over the past decade has led to "period-hopping" in many schools. Reconciling the need to offer students the "big picture" of the past, while enabling them to understand key events, has been a conundrum for history teachers ever since the national curriculum was introduced. The 1991 national curriculum restored a sequential approach overall, but gave teachers choice and included in-depth topics, such as black peoples of the Americas, as a balance to the British history core.

Gove's curriculum has none of these subtleties. Primary school children need only study a huge list of "key dates, events and significant individuals", covering prehistoric man to the Glorious Revolution in just four years. This will be impossible in the time allocated in most primary schools but, in any case, few primary school teachers are prepared for teaching it. Can under-12s really digest the controversies of the English civil war (Levellers and Diggers included), never mind the significance of the Glorious Revolution? This looks like Ladybird book history – engaging introduction at best; superficial and simplistic at worst. The outcome will be a generation of children with a patchy understanding of history before 1700, skated over by a teacher pressed for time and lacking in enthusiasm.

The new curriculum, however, leaves a lot of room for the 19th and 20th centuries between the ages of 11 and 14. The industrial revolution, the emancipation of women and the two world wars are already on the curriculum, but with the addition of topics unlikely to engage teenage students – such as Gladstone and Disraeli, the second and third Reform Acts, the battle for Home Rule and Chamberlain and Salisbury. Having got through the repeal of the corn laws, does anyone fancy teaching tariff reform to 13-year-olds? Equiano and Seacole remain and 20th-century immigration to Britain has been introduced, but the curriculum is otherwise Anglocentric.


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