Michael Gove replaced as education secretary

David Cameron’s final cabinet reshuffle before the 2015 election has seen some significant changes.

Michael Gove, who had served as education secretary since the 2010 general election, will be taking up the position of Commons chief whip. According to a tweet posted by David Cameron earlier today, Gove will now have ‘an enhanced role in campaigning and doing broadcast media interviews.’

Replacing Gove is Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan, who was appointed just three months ago as financial secretary to the treasury, and minister for women and equalities. Morgan will be retaining her women and equalities portfolio alongside her new post as education secretary.

Born in south London, Morgan attended Surbiton High School before studying law at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. She was elected MP for Loughborough in 2010, appointed assistant whip in 2012 and economic secretary to the treasury in 2013.

In his time as education secretary Michael Gove has been responsible for the biggest shake-up of England’s school system for decades. He has constantly faced opposition from teaching unions, and general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower has stated that the union will be looking for a change of direction from Ms Morgan.

Written by Miriam Levenson
This news story was originally published on
Music Teacher magazine’s website 

U-turn over English Baccalaureate plans

Michael_Gove_croppedThe government has dropped plans to replace GCSEs for English Baccularate Certificates following concerns from the Commons Select Committee on education.

Education secretary Michael Gove has now twice had his plans for GCSE reform rejected, as he had originally intended for GCSEs to return to the era of CSE’s and O levels.

Gove described the implementation of the Ebacc as, ‘one reform too far’. Students were due to begin studying under the new qualifications in 2015.

The backtrack has been due to concerns raised by MPs, including deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, exam regulator Ofqual, teachers and students. One of the suggested reasons that Gove was prompted to make the decision to abandon the Ebacc was that his intention to have one exam board to act as provider for a particular subject might be in contention with EU regulations. Exam boards too had expressed their concerns with the new measures.

While GCSEs will remain, they will be subject to major reform: Gove is keen to reduce coursework and modules in order to rid students of ‘bite-size learning and spoon feeding’.

When questioned by the MP for Slough, Fiona Mactaggart, about the place of creative subjects as part of the reconstructed National Curriculum, Gove stated that: ‘Artistic and creative subjects are central to a broad education.’

Speaking in the House of Commons, the education secretary said: ‘Let’s work together, as we have so successfully on other issues, to ensure children get the high quality education they deserve.’

GCSE exam to be replaced by Ebacc

Exams in key subjects are set to be overhauled with the English Baccalaureate certificate (Ebacc) set to replace GCSE examinations.

The new format will see the abolishment of coursework in English and maths. Modular exams will be culled, leaving students with one intensive exam at the end of study. There are also plans to have the Ebacc certificate administrated by just one main exam board.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced the changes to parliament, saying the Ebacc would create ‘truly rigorous exams, competitive with the best in the world, and making opportunity more equal for every child.’

Head of the Nasuwt teachers’ union Chris Keates responded to the announcement by saying: ‘The government will have to work hard to ensure that these reforms are not the final nail in the coffin for the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.’

Changes are currently under consultation, with plans to introduce the Ebacc into schools in 2015. The first students to take the new exams in English, maths and science will be those starting secondary school this year – set to take the KS4 exams in 2017.

There are plans to further roll out the exam format to other subjects, including history, geography and languages in 2016 – where history coursework will also be scrapped. Further research will then be conducted to see how the Ebacc might be used to structure other subjects.

Teaching Drama contributor Susan Elkin tried to ease the fears of drama teachers, writing in a blog for The Independent: ‘Subjects such as history, geography and languages will probably be phased in gradually. But drama, dance and music will not. And quite right too. You can’t assess these subjects through a three-hour silent exam as you can maths, chemistry or English. Music or drama need to be taught by building up practical skills in regular sessions over a long period of time.’

Michael Gove to overhaul A levels

Education secretary Michael Gove has outlined his plans to overhaul A level qualifications. The government is set to place universities in charge of approving exam content, and will remove the Department for Education from taking any kind of role.

In a letter to exam regulator Ofqual, Gove raised his concerns about the current standard of the A levels, claiming that, ‘leading university academics tell me that A levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree.’ Changes made to the current system would see exams taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland affected.

The news comes as a study found that a number of university lecturers believed that students were unprepared for university teaching. Of those lecturers polled, three-fifths said they had run ‘catch-up’ classes to assist students. Over half of the 633 who took part said many students do not have the writing, or critical thinking skills required to study at undergraduate level.

If plans are to go ahead, the control over A level content would be removed from exam boards and handed over to universities. Gove wrote: ‘I am particularly keen that universities should be able to determine subject content, and that they should endorse specifications, including details of how the subject should be assessed. I will expect the bar to be a high one: university ownership of the exams must be real and committed, not a tick-box exercise.’

The new system would still see exam boards set the outline for courses, but it would be encouraged that students were only entered for exams if they had been approved by a Russell Group university.

Responses to the new scheme have been mixed. NUT general sectary Christine Blower said that there would be, ‘no harm done’ from the new measures, however, it would be more complicated than it appeared in implement the scheme: ‘You can’t decide to have a hands-off approach in one bit of the education system but attempt to dominate the whole of the rest of it. A-levels have to be seen as part of the education system.’

Teaching Drama contributor, and The Stage’s education editor, Susan Elkin said on Twitter: ‘So Gove wants universities to set GCSEs and A Levels. [The] ones I took were all set by University of London. Education has always been cyclical.’Tis said that if you teach for 40 years and stick unchangingly to your methods etc., you will be in fashion three times.’

The government plans for the new A level qualifications to be taught from 2014, starting with English, maths and science. The system would then be implemented across the whole board of subjects.

CULTURAL EDUCATION REPORT LEADS TO £15 MILLION INVESTMENT FROM GOVERNMENT

Recommendations have been made in order to improve the state of England’s cultural learning after a report, undertaken by Classic FM’s managing director Darren Henley, found that ‘patchiness in provision of cultural education [remains] across England’.

The report suggested that, to improve cultural learning, students should study arts subjects up until the age of 16. Henley has said that cultural education in England could become ‘the envy of the world’ if the government are to take his recommendations on board. The Department for Education have now confirmed that they will invest over £15 million over the next three years in order to develop Henley’s ideas.

The coalition government’s backing of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which includes no studying of arts subjects, has been cited as one of reasons behind the problems in cultural education. Henley has suggested that there should be a ‘creation of a sixth grouping of subjects included in the EBacc, which would include cultural education subjects such as art and design, dance, drama, design technology, film studies and music’.

It was revealed today that many of the report’s recommendations have already been set in motion. There are plans for an academy for student film-makers, headed by the British Film Institute, and the creation of a national youth dance company which will be funded by the DofE and the Arts Council.

Education secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Britain has forged a well-deserved reputation in popular culture – in film, dance, music and art. But I want to introduce more children to high culture. Cultural education must not be a closed shop for poorer students. I want to end any suggestion that high culture is only for the privileged few.’

For more information and to view the report in full, visit http://www.education.gov.uk