Will Gove reap the consequences of his Murdoch style approach as GCSE scandal refuses to go away?

Glenys Stacey, Head of Ofqual gives an unconvincing
performance on News at 10
Education Secretary Michael Gove has spent most of his career working for Media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Since coming to office as Education Secretary he seems to have adopted some of the same approaches as Murdoch a man he clearly seems to admire despite his recent downfall.

As the dust settles on the GCSE results scandal what happened seems to be becoming clear. Ofqual and the Exam Boards seem to have been so desperate to please Gove and ensure that “grade inflation” ended that they went way too far in marking the exams down and in doing so created a clear injustice to this years GCSE students, their teachers and schools.

The arguments about “grade inflation” and other possible defects in the GCSEs do not really come into what happened. If the exam system needed changing - and actually I am one of those who think that it does - this was certainly not the way to go about it. Changes should be made clearly and fairly with everyone knowing what is expected of them.

Nothing could be further from what happened yesterday and a succession of officials from Exam Boards, Ofqal through to Michael Gove himself appeared on TV and radio to give incredibly unconvincing performances suggesting that they did nothing and there was no political interference.

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Some national papers and sadly at times the BBC seem to have fallen for the small sounding national percentage changes. 0.4% across the board lower. 1.5% lower in English does not sound much but at school level this is not at all what we are seeing.

By the afternoon a succession of frankly bizarre results appeared across Suffolk from schools that have consistently performed highly. The most striking was St Bendicts Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds where the number of pupils gaining 5 A* to C in five subjects including English and maths dropped dramatically from 81 per cent to 56 per cent. Similar but less dramatic results appeared from other well regarded Suffolk Schools including Bungay High School, Farlingaye and King Edwards also in Bury which had recently celebrated some of the best A-Level results in the county.

King Edwards Headteacher Geoff Barton has written a number of Blog posts and appeared on TV and radio discussing the issue, his latest post today he is calling for pressure to be kept up on this issue so it does not vanish off the news agenda:
We all know how the news agenda works. Yesterday we whipped up a well-deserved stink about the inexplicable drop in GCSE English results across many schools.
It didn’t accord with OfQual’s limp talk of grade standardisation. It felt more as if foundation students were being used harshly and punitively to make some shabby point about standards. It was the C/D borderline cohort who bore the brunt, losing out on the C they might need for college and instead getting a D.
What made this so reprehensible were the signs that schools playing the early entry card - ie getting their students to sit the English exam in January - were rewarded. In other words, marking was more lenient in January than in June.
So students sitting the summer exams were getting Ds instead of Cs because of some decision in some distant office and not because of their own abilities or the quality of teaching. 
This is an issue that transcends simple party politics as this interesting interaction between the Telegraph columnist and free school supporter Toby Young and the right wing TES Editor Gerard Kelly shows.
It is clear as the day that the Government. Ofqual and the exam boards have done something. Did they collude directly? I think the mess we are seeing shows they did not. Something worse happened. They all went off on their own and did what they thought Gove wanted them to do based on a combination of guesswork, off the record conversations fuelled by fear.

This might be a way to run a newspaper when the worst that can happen is a few journalists get upset but it is no way for the Secretary of State for Education to behave.

Real people, in this case sixteen year old students, are having their real lives affected and face not being able to continue their studies in college or sixth form or re-sitting exams they would have passed if they had been entered in January rather than June.

I don't think this scandal is going to go away. Too many people's lives were messed up yesterday and piece by piece we are finding out exactly what happened. Maybe Gove like his past past master Murdoch will end up falling and unlike many of this years GCSE students he will only have himself to blame.

 Coming on my Blog later - Should GCSE's be scrapped?
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