Heads to fight back?

Has Gove finally over-reached himself? Things worthy of comment have been coming thick and fast: the teachers’ strike on Tuesday and the Govester’s comment  beseeching teacher unions not to visit their ideology on pupils (excuse me?); but out of the glare of national publicity was the announcement that in future, only a student’s first attempt at an examination would count in the league tables.

Hard to know where to start on this one. As has been seen in the past with ‘back-of-the-fag-packet’ ministerial announcements, the details were unclear but it turns out that if a student in Year 10 took an exam in, say, English last year, a retake this year would count, but if a student in the same year group took the exam in November, with a view to retaking in June, only that November result would be registered on the league tables. Not very fair, is it? Not that Gove cares. He has decreed that heads and schools need to be free to do all sorts of things: decide on term dates, employ unqualified teachers, decide which bits of the National Curriculum to apply but HE is the only person qualified to decide that it is not in ANY child’s interests to sit an exam early and resit that exam if they don’t do as well as they’d hoped. Why? There are clearly debates to be had and it is not in the interests of all students to repeat exams but heads should be able to leave it to the professional judgement of English and maths colleagues as to whether this works for an individual.

But here’s the thing: nothing has really changed. Students CAN be entered a second time and, if  that earns the best result, they get a genuine certificate saying so and can use it on their CV which will be recognised by employers and FE/HE colleges. The only change is that the school that worked with them for five or more years and who helped them ‘over the line’ cannot claim any credit.

Here’s what heads should do. Use professional judgement to re-enter students as they think fit and, in the summer, publish their own figures using each student’s best results, whichever ‘sitting’ these were achieved at. Parents will probably only see those figures and local papers will be confused, perhaps even publishing alternative tables. I know heads in at least one Local Authority are seriously considering this. It’s a simple way of calling Gove’s bluff which is legal and cost free. Come on headteachers, do what you know to be right in the interests of your children.


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