Dress Sizes, Chocolate Hats and rabbits

Just back from BETT day 1 and whilst I’m not moving onto a strict diet of humble pie I think its fair to say that Mr Gove did pull a small (if not yet fully formed) rabbit out of the hat.

Firstly, I don’t know if the PR people have been at him, or if he is feeling better about himself for having lost one of his target of two dress sizes, but to me his speech had much more emphasis on the positive and was more upbeat about education. There are some logical holes to be picked in his argument (“excellent UK companies selling IT abroad” vs “system not capable of producing the excellence those companies need”) but those are nits to pick another day.

I still don’t agree that the removal of the NC PoS is a requirement to move forward, and many of his comments about it showed signs of someone who has been told that something is bad rather than understanding for themselves what its status is. The ICT NC is not proscriptive, indeed it is the very opposite – proscription had to be avoided to reduce the possibility of having to fund things that the PoS said schools had to do. It does not at any point specify hardware, software or anything of that kind. I believe that this belief about the ICT NC has arisen because of the largely unchallenging and unimaginative qualifications that have grown up around it. So here is a danger of the change – what’s to stop the same thing happening with Computer Science.

Well, I think the answer to that lies in the rabbit:

So I am also announcing today that, if new Computer Science GCSEs are developed that meet high standards of intellectual depth and practical value, we will certainly consider including Computer Science as an option in the English Baccalaureate.

Now, I’m making no claims that the SoS hangs on my every word (or even, quite frankly, knows I exist) but here is my tweet from two hours before the speech this morning:

One thing that #Gove could do to make me reconsider opinion is to make Comp Sci part of Ebacc *carefully prepares edible hat*

I spoke to a number of people after the speech and their response to this bit was rather muted – “He didn’t definitely say it would go in”. Which is where I find myself in the unusual (frankly unique for me) position of defending Mr Gove. One thing we should have understood by now about the SoS is that he does exactly what he says he is going to do. This is an admirable quality. You have to say that, even if you don’t agree with what he says he is going to do. I think it is also the case that ministers tend not to say such things unless they have substance. Basically, he did not have to say it, so we have to accept it is to his credit that he did.

Inclusion in the the Ebacc (potentially) is the game changer that will drive more schools, teachers and therefore students into Computer Science. Our challenge is to develop the qualifications that meet the high standards we know our students deserve and hold the SoS of the day to that promise.