Ministerial musical chairs says a lot about how the UK political system operates. The Department of Education has suffered more than most from frequent changes of leadership. Since 1944, the average length of the secretary of state’s term of office has been 2.2 years.
Meanwhile, those working in secondary schools are left with the unenviable task of implementing the biggest programme of exams reforms since the start of the GCSE in 1988. There have been far too many examples of ministers initiating change and then moving on to other departments, while the profession is still introducing his or her new policies.
Implementation is for the long haul, but policy formation is too often for short-term headlines. In the most successful education systems, such as Singapore, South Korea and Finland, changes are considered and planned over a much longer timescale and ministers stay in post to see reforms through the extended implementation period.
Time and effort spent on changing grades from A*- G to 9–1 and subdividing the top grade into three would have been better-spent on improving technical and vocational qualifications, making them more accessible for 14-to 16-year-olds alongside a good general education.
The grading changes are an unnecessary distraction, offering a bit more information to the most highly selective universities on which to make their conditional offers, causing several years of confusion for parents and employers and creating a lot more stress for academically bright students.
However wrong these changes are and however painful I find it to say, I believe that it would be wrong to go back on the exam reforms now. Teachers and students need a period of stability and the only way this can be achieved is by making a success of the new system. It is time to hit the pause button on exam reforms. We have to look forward, not go back.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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