From education to employment

Public and professional opposition to Gove’s baccalaureate

A survey from YouGov’s Teacher Track system suggests 50% of teachers in England oppose the government’s plan to scrap GCSEs for a new baccalaureate system.

The survey, which records the opinions of teachers from a representative sample of schools in the UK, showed that while half disagreed with the idea, only 22% of teachers welcomed the system instead.

While the change will mean a reorganisation of course structure, content and teaching methods, one of the main concerns surrounding the introduction of the new style baccalaureate is the marking system. The current GCSEs allow assessment to be distributed between the final exams and controlled coursework. The new baccalaureate tests work only produced in the final exam.

The YouGov survey revealed the opinion of teachers was very similar to that of the public. Both groups showed a significant preference for the combination assessment of GCSEs compared with that of the baccalaureate.

There are a variety of concerns surrounding the abolishment of assessed coursework, which many believe to be an essential part of the curriculum. Skills that students develop through coursework include in-depth research, drafting, time and project management.

Through individual projects students also learn how to access the information they need, to take the time to craft a piece of work, and create cohesion and purpose from vast amounts of data.

A worry for teachers is that work set during term time could be rendered unimportant in the eyes of their students, if it does not specifically involve exam content.

There is also the risk of some schools opting to teach exam technique in class at the expense of in-depth study. Training just for exam conditions does not represent deep subject knowledge, but merely fast recall. It also raises questions as to how useful pure exam testing will be once students find employment. Students may be required to commit themselves to ongoing assessment, research and operation, never having gained the necessary skills at school.

Students hone their skills through extended study, and many believe it is unfair for students to be tested solely under exam conditions, and purely on exam technique, which many not be a clear representation of their ability.

Speaking about the Teacher Track survey findings, YouGov associate director Ian Neale said: “The results of this survey clearly show that at the moment Michael Gove has a steep hill to climb in terms of getting teachers onside with his vision of the exam system”, and the strong opposition from teachers, “could be problematic for the government in pushing through real change”.

Daisy Atkinson

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