Tristram Hunt says his party encouraged schools to aim too low – and pupils paid the price

The Independent is reporting comments from Tristram Hunt saying the last Labour government committed a “great crime” in focusing too much on schoolchildren achieving a C grade at GCSE and not pushing them further…

Tristram Hunt, who has been tipped as a future Labour leader since being appointed Shadow Education Secretary in October, suggested that schools had been forced to place too much emphasis on pupils getting the threshold C grade for the purposes of league tables, and that ministers should have created a “no limits” system which encouraged teachers and pupils to go further…

In an interview with The Times yesterday, Mr Hunt said that he wanted to see more aspiration in the education system, adding: “The great crime was an awful lot of effort being put on kids getting a C at GCSE, then not going further. There should be no limits – the system should be saying how far can this child go?”

Although league tables were created by John Major’s government, they were embraced by Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mr Hunt, who is one of the leading Blairites in the Shadow Cabinet, also conceded that the exam system has been dumbed down with “some elements of grade inflation”…

Head teachers would argue that they have to concentrate on minimum standards since, if they fail to reach them, they will lose their jobs and see their schools forced to become academies.

However, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, believes that reforms to the exam league tables will put an end to this, because they will focus on a wider measure of performance than just the percentage of pupils getting five A*- to C-grade passes at GCSE.

In addition, his reforms to GCSE and A-levels – bringing back an emphasis on end-of-course exams rather than coursework – are aimed at stretching the brightest pupils through tougher questions.

A source close to Mr Gove said that Mr Hunt was “right” to acknowledge mistakes with league tables, adding: “We’re getting rid of the five A* to C league-table measure that lay behind it. In future, league tables will be based on progress across eight subjects – so no more focus on the C/D borderline.”…

More at: Labour admits ‘great crime’ on education: Tristram Hunt says his party encouraged schools to aim too low – and pupils paid the price

Is Tristram Hunt right on this issue? Did the system result in too much emphasis on the C/D boundary and consequently lead to a failure of aspiration? If so, how would you like to see it changed? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Policy and Secondary.


  1. kccv1

    So @TristamHuntMP can talk some sense when he wants to and even be reflectively insightful?
    Well lets not get carried away!

  2. BramRaider

    SchoolsImprove So, is he also admitting that there was “politically motivated” grade inflation too? Or just that we aim at grade Cs?

  3. kennygfrederick

    SchoolsImprove -this is not the way to win an election! We already have a SOS who rubbishes schools! We don’t need another! Stand up for us

  4. sharpeleven

    rrunsworth SchoolsImprove “Every child deserves the best education”? Who could or would ever disagree with that?

  5. Ingotian

    kennygfrederick SchoolsImprove If you think the gains in the parental vote will outweigh losses in teachers it will seem the way to win

  6. CareersDefender

    kennygfrederick SchoolsImprove hear hear. How many teacher are holding on for better days? They’ll give up if both main parties don’t hear

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