Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Does it have to be BACC to the Future?...

....With a mighty round of thunderous applause, I watched the Welsh Assembly basically stick two fingers up to Mr Gove the Education Minister, and reject all notion of there being a BACC in Wales - EBACC or otherwise and a resounding resolve to stick to GCSES and A Levels in our Principality!

To me, and it does not matter which side of the political divide you stand upon, this is true democracy in action. What may suit Westminster,obviously does not suit Cardiff and having a Labour led Welsh Assembly means that every now and then our elected AM's say No to central government in London.

Mr Gove wants to replace the GCSE with an EBACC. In Wales for many years during the 6th form years where young people take their A Levels, Wales has had the Welsh BACC. It runs alongside A Levels and is a very popular course, but it does not replace the A Level. Now Mr Gove, at an alarmingly indecent pace wishes the EBACC to replace GCSES in swift indecent haste. The EBACC is supposed to be a more rigourous examination, doing away with coursework and bite sized assessments and demanding a one off end of year exam when a pupil's grading will be determined on that exam alone purely. However, bizarrely the EBACC will not contain any of the Arts- eg Drama as the subject is deemed "too soft" by Mr Gove.

My two youngest sons are in Years 10 and 9 and are approaching their 15th and 14th birthdays respectively. Their  HeadTeacher caused something of a stir last year when he said pupils in Years 9 and 10 will select 2 options of subjects in each year for GCSE before the full round of the main GCSES in Maths, English, Science etc in Year 11.

I have 2 very different sons. The elder of the two is a high flying achiever, but has to be motivated and pushed a bit (akin to a lot of teenage lads!). He excels in an examination situation under pressure, but loathes continuous assessment throughout the year. The youngest is autistic, anything bite sized and in small doses is great for him. The pressure and anxiety over an exam is an anathema to him which can result in a "meltdown situation". So I have 2 sons who cope entirely differently with GCSES this year. What suits one child, does not suit the other. My fear with Mr Gove's proposals is that he is shoe horning the EBACC  to fit a certain type of child, risking thousands of other children being lost in the system and thrown onto the scrapheap of life as a result - many of whom will be children with SEN. The GCSE System is far from perfect and perhaps we do need to tweak it by offereing something more to high achievers. But we have the iGCSE to do that surely, but it is hardly being used in state schools and seems to be the preferred option of private independent schools. Therefore there is really no need to scrap the entire system for the EBACC.

Mr Gove accuses Labour of wanting the working class children to be "good with their hands" and nothing else. Wrong! Currently there is a dearth of skilled engineers, mechanics, plumbers, bricklayers etc, as there was when Mrs Thatcher was in power. These skills were rendered "valueless" by the Tories in the 80's. Ed Miliband wants to offer skilled apprenticeships to ALL children so children have a choice. Choice is all important. University is not always the answer and far from the EBACC pushing children into wanting Higher Education, the actual COST OF THE EDUCATION at university is putting off children from all classes apart from the aristocracy! The UK needs skilled people that are good with their hands and good with their brains, and are not devalued but appreciated for their skilled trade.

And what of the arts? What becomes of our future actors, sculptors, artists? Mr Gove does not value the Arts under the EBACC and dismisses them as too soft. My youngest son is currently doing Drama GCSE and has found his niche; is attending a Drama School as well and has ambitions to act. Under the EBACC he would be told to cast off those ambitions and study more academic subjects so as to be a value for society.

Sorry Mr Gove. To have an autistic child with ambition and hopes and dreams like everyone else is proof of the excellent teaching and home input he has received, and you and your Government are not going to take that away from him with your EBACC.

A last few words of advice: Fit the child and his/her abilities/ambitions to the exam, not a one-size-fits-all exam approach as you are hoping to inflict upon the next generation. Take time to discuss, analyse and debate educational advisors opinions, parents opinions and pupils opinions, and then devise an exam system that is fit for purpose for the next generation, and not one that is politically motivated to score points against the opposition of the day.

We don't want to go "BACC to the Future" - we need an all encompassing non political exam system for the next generation that values children from all walks of life. Only then will the UK return to be the educational envy of the rest of the world it once was.