Gove has presented the reform as something desperately needed to rescue a dire situation. He announced it by saying:
Critical to reform is ending an exam system that has narrowed the curriculum, forced idealistic professionals to teach to the test and encouraged heads to offer children the softest possible options. It is time for the race to the bottom to end. It is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. It is time to raise aspirations and restore rigour to our examinations.
We want to ensure modules - which encourage bite-size learning and spoon-feeding, teaching to the test and gaming of the system - go, once and for all. We want to remove controlled assessment and coursework from core subjects. These assessment methods have – in all too many cases – corrupted the fair testing of all students.
And – critically – we will end the competition between exam boards which has led to a race to the bottom with different boards offering easier courses or assistance to teachers in a corrupt effort to massage up pass rates.
Strong words. The only problem is that he still has to administer this narrow, soft-optioned, dumbed-down, low-aspiration, unrigorous, spoon-feeding, system-gaming, corrupted race to the bottom for another four years. He still has to congratulate the kids who float out of it each year with their corruptly inflated grades.
How can he possibly tolerate this?
The answer, surely, is that he won’t – or at least he’ll say that he won’t. He’ll do various things in the meantime that he can claim are improving GCSEs.
But if he can do that, what’ll then be the point of replacing them?