Saturday, 18 June 2011

ConHome's Analysis of Michael Gove's comments

Conservative Home have done an analysis of our exam systems and Michael Gove's recent comments.  I broadly agree with it.

There can be little doubt that the credibility of GCSEs and A Levels has diminished.  That is in no way a slight on students.  We have some remarkable students who will deal with whatever exam system is put in front of them, but the best of them are not stretched sufficiently.  I can use a personal example here.  My daughter achieved remarkable GCSE (11 A*, 2 A and 1B) and A level results (2 A* 1A).  Obviously I was and am delighted with those - and she is an amazing academic.  But with hindsight you have to reflect on whether she could have been stretched and tested a little more.  Not because of the school she went to (Sir Harry Smith Community College did a grand job) but because they were working to an exam system that doesn't stretch sufficiently.

I remember taking my daughter around Cambridge when she was applying and hearing someone talk about the weight they give to the International Baccalaureate  - because its standards have been maintained over the years.  Again, that is not the fault of Cambridge University - but it does perhaps highlight one of the reasons why state schools students do not get places in top Universities. (my daughter is now very, very happy at Edinburgh University - so I have no gripes here!!).

It is not because of our students that our system has to change, it is FOR our students.  They deserve to be tested in a system that has international and academic credibility and the best of our students deserve to be stretched and tested more than they are at present.


  1. "There can be little doubt that the credibility of GCSEs and A Levels has diminished."
    Try actually comparing in detail the content of today's exams and previous ones and you'd realise how utterly false that statement is. A level English Literature for example now has techniques and topics which were only ever degree-level before.

  2. There has always been cross over between A Level and Degree, as there is between GCSE and A Level. And long may it continue. Recent changes to A Level and especially the marking scheme, work against those with eloquent written styles - is that a step forwards?