Yesterday, a leaked document by the education department revealed Michael Gove’s latest plan to meet his three objectives as Education Minister:
1. Demoralise youth.
2. Recreate 1950’s Britain.
3. Achieve a class divide of which Thatcher would be proud.
2016, GCSE’s will be obsolete. In their place, a resurrection of the two-tier examination system used in the mid-1900’s, with the bottom 25% of 16 year olds taking CSE’s, whilst the more academic sit O-Level’s.
Conceived in 1984, GCSE’s provided hope for greater social mobility (admittedly, this hope was meagre under Thatcher, but let’s think long-term) by creating a full-spectrum qualification which would support the aspirations of all young people, not just the elite. Thirty years on and regressive thinking by the Tories threatens to segregate society once more; 2016 is sure to see the remaining sinews of social mobility perceptibly tauten. CSE’s are destined to become the qualification of the lower classes and, by corollary, the qualification of the North; Liverpool and Hull are already down as the ‘CSE towns of tomorrow’, according to figures by Chris Cook of the Financial Times.
Aged 14, most young people have barely begun to seriously consider their futures- their main focuses in life are their friends and hobbies- and yet, according to Gove, this is the point at which we should effectively cut off the bottom 25%. How, when the futures of these young people are still so malleable, is it possible to gain any suitable degree of accuracy when determining their potential? Figures show that of those in the bottom 25% aged 11, one-third will have broken out by the time they are 16. Under Gove’s plans, such promise of development will be choked off at the midway point.
Arguably, though, the pressure of a deadline may generate a more positive response to education, resulting in swifter academic development. Be that the case, why stop there? Let us end play fights and instead clobber our youth with textbooks; let us tear down the river ropeswings and drown them in Radio 4; let us pop those dastardly footballs, to be replaced with quick-fire mathematics. There’s no such thing as ‘too young’! Who needs childhood, anyway, when there’s a sparkling adulthood of affluence awaiting?
Unfortunately, there is a flipside to that inspiring vision: a country simmering with dejection and resentment. To simply be told that your aspirations are now worthless and to be unable to revoke that decision, to claim back your future, is an extremely disempowering concept. Friendships, which are so important in youth, could be torn apart, not only through physical segregation, but through mental reassessments of status. Moreover, a child who has the potential to reach a grade C at GCSE level may, in 2016, find themselves moved onto the CSE curriculum. With the only possible outcome being a ‘dead-end’ qualification, why should they even bother? I know I’d give up. Admittedly, under the current system, we have ‘Foundation’ GCSE papers for those who are aiming at a grade C. However, unlike the proposed CSE’s, the grade isn’t belittled by the means through which it were achieved: there is no record of the person having taken, what could be seen as, a less-prestigious paper.
As for the longevity of these plans, don’t depair just yet: Mr Clegg has promised to block Gove’s proposals just as he did with Trident, and wind power, and Proportional Representation, and tuition fees, and… Oh dear.