30 October 2007

The pieces fall into place

There seems to have been surprisingly little commentary so far from the right-wing blogosphere about the latest development on the from-ALevels-to-diplomas evolution saga, though these two make for interesting reading. (Care to link here, gentlemen?)

I think the case provides a useful illustration of the difference between NewLabour under Blair and NewLabour under Brown. Mr Blair, it will be recalled, at least expressed opposition to the abolition of A-levels, even if we never quite knew with him how much any given expression of sentiment actually amounted to. In the enthusiasm to focus hostility on the person rather than the ideology, it may have been forgotten that in many ways Mr Blair represented a brake on the more extreme collectivist-egalitarian elements of his party. Dr Brown, whatever his true underlying belief system may really be (it's a bit obscure, though we can be fairly sure it is not libertarian), seems less willing or able to resist those collectivist forces.

Here are two letters to the Telegraph which suggest that, like every other educational change this government has forced on schools, the proposals to bring in diplomas have been driven by theory and ideology rather than practicality, and with a minimum of thought, planning or consultation — the latter probably being limited to carefully selected pseudo-consultation in such a way that potential disagreement either would not arise or could be brushed aside.

The first letter is from the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry:

Sir – The Royal Society of Chemistry questions the way that the Government revealed its plans for the projected new school science diplomas. It is unclear what is being proposed by the Government, but any changes affecting A-levels and GCSEs should not be taken without deep and wide-ranging consultations.
There was a failure here to achieve joined-up thinking. Some of those closest to discussions over the past six months, and even other government bodies, have been taken by surprise as a specialised planned vocational qualification has morphed into a brand new educational system. This is no way to treat teachers or young people in secondary education. We regard it as making policy on the hoof.
The future of our young people is not a frivolous matter; it is central to the economic and social fabric of the nation. Decision-making on such matters as the introduction of diplomas should reflect that seriousness fully.

The second is from Colin Peacocke, an eminently sensible chap whom I happen to know personally.

Sir – For almost two decades, I served as the most senior administrative officer in the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (providing A-levels, GCSEs and a variety of other examinations, including a number in the vocational field).
Bitter experience showed my colleagues and me that it takes some 25 years for new examinations to be fully accepted by the academic and business communities for use as selection tools for student entry or the recruitment of employees. The reason is a straightforward matter of perception. The person conducting the assessment of an applicant better understands the value of the candidate's qualifications if they are the same as those the assessor holds already.
The Secretary of State's time-scale is far too short. We were promised that education, in general, would be permitted to achieve stability, with changes being kept to a minimum. This announcement seems another "bright idea" trotted out by a tired government.

What I find interesting about this development is that it explains two of the puzzles thrown up by the plan to force all 16 to 18-year-olds into education: (a) what are they going to do there, and (b) how are we going to avoid having the non-egalitarian horror of a two-tier system?

Time allowed: 15 minutes.

Pens down, please.

(a) They will do diplomas, in subjects ranging from "health and social care" to "hair and beauty" to "sport and leisure" to "travel and tourism".
(b) There will be no A-levels. Everyone will do diplomas, which will become the "jewel in the crown" of Brown & Balls the British education system.


Homophobic said...

When are we gonna have that military coup to restore order?

Shades said...

unfortunately, the military are too busy to answer you call at the moment, please try later.