Reaction to the Secretary of States EBC u-tweak range from the suggestion that he’s completely humiliated himself and had to row back on all his plans to the idea that in a masterstroke of Machiavellian plotting he has got everything he wants, the only thing that’s changed is the dropping of the EBC name.
As always, the reality is somewhere in between these two extremes. The full-some praise being given to Mr Gove by his conservative colleagues (including his nemesis Graham Stuart) and the desire to blame the EU for the SoS own mistake are indications that there has been damage to the Gove brand. Coming hard on the heels of the ToryEducation nonsense it has not been a good start to the year for Team DfE.
There is no doubt in my mind that the decision by Mr Gove to drop the EBC was a very late one and not one of his choosing. My reasons for believing this relate to the draft national curriculum that was released at the same time as his bravura House of Commons mea culpa. The original plan for the EBC was that the whole exam would be up for tender to a single Awarding Body (AB). The AB with the best structure, content and assessment startegy would win the day. This meant that there was no need to produce detailed KS4 curricula for the EBC subjects. The ABs would be doing that work later. Indeed, this was one of my greatest reservations about the whole EBC, that the development of curriculum content would be clouded in commercial confidentiality issues, and consequently protected form FOI interrogation. So when the draft NC was published yesterday without KS4 (except for PE) to me it was fairly obvious why*. They were not expecting to have to provide that content at this stage.
The removal of the single provider is a significant change. All along the SoS has made it clear that in his view the competition between boards was the most significant contributor to grade inflation (whereas in reality grade improve over time for many reason, including student getting better because they are taught better). So this is a set-back for the SoS and I’m not sure what he is now going to do to mitigate what he considers to be a big issue.
I am also a bit concerned about the draft NC generally. If I was to be completely cynical (“No, Mike”, I hear you cry, “that could never be true of you”) I might suggest that the reason for the great difference in style between the KS1-2 and the KS3 programmes is that there was a belief that anyone could write a KS1-2 PoS (after all, its only primary school, isn’t it, bit of long division and some hard words to spell should do it), whereas KS3 and KS4 needs some detailed subject knowledge and AB input. So we’ll leave that a bit wooly. No-one will notice. Now, I’m sure it wasn’t really like that, but it would be interesting to have some sort of explanation for the complete divergence in styles.
And finally, we still await to see how the single tier issue will play out. I’m sure that Ofqual will continue to have considerable reservations about that. And of course we also await the resolution of the GCSEFiasco.
So, no knockout blow for Mr Gove but I think he’s taken more hard knocks this year than some people are prepared to accept.
*Have just found the (frankly, quite embarrassing) English, Maths and Science KS4 PoS on the DfE site here