Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
3 September 2012

Gove’s disingenuous defence of the GCSE grades fiasco

The Education Secretary glossed over the injustice done to English pupils.

By George Eaton

Michael Gove has been across the airwaves this morning, defending the government’s handling of the GCSE grades fiasco, which saw English papers marked more harshly in June than they were in January. In an appearance on the Today programme, he declared that his “heart” went out to those students who received worse-than-expected grades, but wasted no time in changing the subject. The fiasco, Gove said, simply “reinforced the case for reform”, with modules and units scrapped and GCSEs replaced with “new examinations”. The injustice was “inherent in the examination”.

But this was disingenuous. The Education Secretary conflated two separate debates, one over the value of modular exams and one over the decision to mark some pupils’ English papers more harshly than others. When pressed by John Humphrys, he eventually declared that it would be “absolutely wrong” for him to give instructions to the exam regulator Ofqual, adding that it would be “a genuine scandal if ministers were to interfere to make exams either easier or more difficult”. Again, however, Gove misrepresented his critics’ position. No one is asking him to make exams “easier or more difficult”, rather to correct an injustice that saw grade boundaries arbitrarily moved in the middle of the school year.

Fortunately, with parliament back from its summer recess, Gove won’t be able to avoid scrutiny for long. He will answer regular education questions from MPs at 2:30pm and Labour may request an urgent question on the grades fiasco if he does not make a statement. In addition, trade unions are still threatening to take legal action over his refusal to intervene.

Gove also used his Today appearance to reaffirm his intention to scrap GCSEs all together. The new exams, he said, would have “all the rigour of the old O-levels” but would be sat by “a majority of students”. Yet with the Lib Dems pledged to veto “anything that would lead to a two-tier system”, it remains unclear how the Education Secretary will win their approval.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs