O Levels Aren’t the Issue

Today via the Daily Mail, we learnt of the the new government policy for education at KS4. GCSEs will be replaced by something akin to O’Levels and CSE’s. As no one at all knows the detail of this idea yet, i cannot comment on the idea itself. What bugs me is the assumptions and thinking behind this proposal.

  1. Dividing the exams at 16 up into two means dividing the pupils up into two. This means saying to the 25% of those not taking the academic exams they are of less worth than the others. It is simply a cheaper, swifter and easier method by which to introduce grammar schools. It is selection. It is social division.
  2. Announcing that exams need to be more ‘rigorous’ (i.e. easier) is an insult to all pupils. I know just how hard all my pupils have worked for this year’s exams. I receive emails after 11pm  and before 7 am asking me to mark their exam answers or to clarify a point. The insinuation is that my pupils have had it easy, that they are only getting grades because of some wishy washy test that requires little effort or knowledge to pass. The fact of the matter is that these pupils will get good grades because they have worked bloody hard.
  3. I do not ‘shop around’ for an easy GCSE exam so my pupils grades are inflated. I choose a syllabus based on what is in the content and if it suits my department’s teaching styles. I am not in the business of cheating to get my classes a better grades so that I am made to look better.
  4. I see a man who is running education in England not for the benefits of the pupils in the country but for his own ideals and for his own political advancement. I see a man playing to a a certain part of the media and his own political party as he begins to jostle for position to be his party’s next leader.
  5. If all pupils now leave at 18 not 16 why is all this effort being put into exams that are superseded by what the pupil does 2 years later?
  6. 3 years ago all GCSE’s were rewritten, this year the mark schemes were altered and modular exams removed. Starting in 2013 there will be another rewrite of the syllabus. All of this means rewriting lesson plan and schemes of work each year. All these changes are coming down from national Government. Each piece of tinkering actually restricts progress in my teaching and therefore in my pupils learning, because I have to readjust to the new requirements.

So please could the Department for Education TRUST the professionals to do a good job. Please could they stop telling the country that we are not doing a good job, that we are playing the system and that too many pupils are passing exams because the exams are too easy. Please could the DfE instead work WITH teachers to improve the education and learning of ALL pupils in our state schools. There is so much fantastic work by students and by teachers that should be celebrated and shared.

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4 thoughts on “O Levels Aren’t the Issue

  1. In the early eighties there were school leavers at 16 from the local Grammar School without *any* pass qualifications. They didn’t do CSEs.

    Parents didn’t mind much because they preferred an unsuccessful Grammar school education to a successful Secondary Modern School education – even where this meant five or six good O’Levels for some. With nine forms of non-selection ‘below’ the Grammar Schools most pupils completed a handful of examinations.

    The injustice of selection and non-selection was most evident with split siblings. And. of course, made worse by gender as there were more grammar places for the boys.

    An integrated examination system is essential.

    • Thanks for your comment. I teach at a secondary modern and live in the catchment area, so all 3 of my children have this ridiculous and false division to face yet. This city is plagued by its grammars which are considered the be all and end all of education here. I am considering sending our first child, now in year 5, out of town to a comprehensive. He will still be divided from some friends but will avoid the label that would accompany whichever side of the 11+ divide he fell.

  2. Although it is not the most pressing argument (which is why it is noted as point six) I am dismayed at the thought of participating in the monumental task of completely redesigning KS4 English. Again.

  3. […] I’d read this post by @dukkhaboy about why O-levels aren’t the issue before I’d written up my piece, it might have saved me a lot of time.  In particular it […]

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