GCSEs

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st January 2013.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 2:30 pm, 21st January 2013

What recent representations he has received on his proposed changes to GCSEs; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

What recent representations he has received on his proposed changes to GCSEs; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

We have received almost 5,500 written responses to our consultation, and we are currently reviewing them, along with all the views that we have heard in meetings with interested organisations. We will report on the findings from the consultation once we have had a chance to consider them in full.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

If the Secretary of State had succeeded in uniting everyone—from the CBI to the teaching unions, from Kenneth Baker to Sir Jonathan Ive—in support of his proposals, we would be calling him a genius. What word would he use to describe someone who has achieved the exact opposite?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

I am always grateful for the thought that the hon. Gentleman is toying with the question of whether to call me a genius or a saint. I shall merely say that what we have managed to do so far is put the case for reform after the years when, sadly, the Labour party was in power, and confidence in our examination system received a shock from which the coalition Government are at last rescuing it.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

The Secretary of State may not see anything wrong with a 19th-century education system that places no value on practical, vocational or creative training, but employers are very concerned, and so is the CBI. Why is the Secretary of State not as worried as they are?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, because it gives me another opportunity to remind the House of the changes that we have made to, for example, the teaching of computer science. We replaced an out-of-date information and communications technology curriculum, which had not changed under the last Government, with a fit-for-purpose computer science curriculum that was endorsed by the industry. The hon. Gentleman’s question also gives me an opportunity to point out that, through both the Wolf review of vocational qualifications and the Richard review of apprenticeships, we have managed to unite all those who take vocational education seriously in acclaiming the reforming steps that we have taken.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

The school information regulations that came into force last September require schools to publish on their websites their GCSE results and the GCSE courses that they offer, as well as details of the curriculum for each academic subject in each year of school. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that schools comply with those regulations, so that parents have all the information that they need when deciding on a school for their children?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point; one of the best ways in which we can ensure that all schools offer the range of subjects that young people need in order to succeed is to ensure that there is transparency about the curriculum and clarity in the minds of parents. The changes he mentions should secure that, and it is important that schools observe them.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if this country’s work force are to be able to compete in the global marketplace, we must always endeavour to equip our students better with the skills that they will need to flourish in an increasingly competitive and globalised world?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend, once again, hits the nail on the head; he is acquiring a reputation in these Question Times for cutting straight to the heart of an issue. He describes why the changes we have made to ensure that all students who fail to secure adequate GCSE passes in English and maths at 16 are now required to take those critical subjects on beyond that age are so important. That is also why we are absolutely delighted that we are recruiting a better cohort of teachers than ever before, to build on the achievements of the past.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Education)

A quote:

“The EBacc is very similar to the exam I sat in 1951…the School Certificate. It’s exactly the same, exactly!”

That was changed in 1951

“because it simply wasn’t broad enough for most children…I was part of a privileged elite. And the EBacc is a throwback to that.”

Those were the words of former Conservative Education Secretary, Lord Baker. Discuss.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

I am happy to say that what was an academic education limited to a narrow elite in the 1950s is now being extended to more and more children. I am very sorry that the snobbish attitude that prevails on the Labour Benches—[Interruption.] It is interesting to see Labour Members uniting behind a view that academic education should be available only to a minority, and it is a unique historic trap into which they are falling by endorsing the idea that English, maths, science and modern foreign languages should somehow be denied to young people. What a pity that the party that once stood up for ragged-trousered philanthropists is now standing up for closed-minded reaction.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire

Despite the concerns that have been expressed about arts and creative subjects, is it not true that there is plenty of room in the curriculum for young people who are interested in studying those subjects, even while taking the full English baccalaureate suite?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education

Yes, and I find it curious that there are those who say, for example, that English literature is not a subject that encourages creativity. The assault on the subjects in the English baccalaureate betrays the most narrow of mindsets, whereby the only things that are creative are those which fall within a particularly narrow spectrum. I think that scientists are creative; I think that those who study physics are capable of creativity; I think that geographers are creative; I think that historians are creative. To have Labour Members attacking those subjects as somehow not being creative and not being appropriate for the 21st century is as revealing as the dog that did not bark in Sherlock Holmes’s story.