NUT, ATL and NUS line up to attack latest plans by Education Secretary

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Michael Gove’s proposals for a new set of A-Levels devised by universities have been condemned by teaching unions and students.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: Yet again we see top down initiatives being brought into schools regardless of what the teaching profession may think.

“The NUT is very disappointed that Michael Gove has approached Ofqual without consulting the profession as well. Not only would it have been courteous it would also, more importantly, have been the most sensible approach.

“It is absolutely reasonable to look at the structure of A levels and to look at ways to encourage critical thinking. This however should be the case from the very start of children’s education.

“An obsession with league tables and unnecessary testing is stifling education from the reception class onwards. The Education Secretary can’t just decide to have a hands-off approach in one part of the education system yet want to take total control over the rest.”

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “This sounds like a quick fix gimmick from Michael Gove.

“Of course universities have a useful role to play in deciding what should be tested at A level, but A levels need to test more than just the ability to go to university.  A levels need to test students’ skills and help prepare them for the world of work and daily life as well as to study further.

“Government needs to react to the evidence, not on its whim. One of the main issues highlighted in today’s research is that of teaching to the test. ATL agrees this is a major problem.  A levels have become too narrow, and with so much weight put on them we get teachers teaching to the test leading to a lack of independent thought.  Instead we need more extended study, group study and more course work, as well as the removal of meaningless league tables.

“Setting exams is a highly technical and specialised skill.”

The NUS warned against an elitist approach to A-level reform and called for proper engagement with the diversity of modern routes to study and work.

NUS president Liam Burns said: “The idea that A-levels should simply be concerned with admission to the traditional universities is at best hopelessly naive and at worst a purposefully elitist call to return to the top-down culture of the 1950s.”

“There is no good reason why universities should be put in the uniquely privileged position of engineering an A-level system that must cater for a wide variety of learners and foster a wide diversity of routes to study and work which increasingly require flexibility rather than a linear approach.”

“If Michael Gove truly wants to improve standards or demystify the university experience for those considering applying, then that is a laudable aim, but to pigeon-hole the purpose of A-levels as university admissions or to further restrict access to the top grades is not the right way to go about it.”


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