LETTER: ‘English Baccalaureate’ will hit Burnley secondary schools

I AM deeply concerned that measures introduced by the Government on January 12th, for new educational league tables to be based on the “English Baccalaureate” (those who are old enough might think it closer to the old “Matriculation” than the French Bac.) will be disastrous for Burnley secondary schools.

Friday, 21st January 2011, 9:21 am

League tables will rank schools on the percentage of pupils getting A*- C passes in English, maths, two sciences, ancient or modern history and a modern or ancient foreign language.

For the past seven years Burnley’s five new secondary schools have been striving to raise the attainment levels and aspirations of the borough’s schoolchildren.

The school I know best, Unity, has done tremendous work in raising the pass levels and, just as importantly, the self-esteem of its pupils as have other schools in the town, but how can they continue to do this when the Government keeps changing the goal posts? At first the target was 5A-Cs with English or maths. Then, with no warning and with funding depending on it, it became English and maths.

Over time other changes had been introduced to the 1988 National Curriculum including: languages became optional from 14; subjects like general science replaced physics, chemistry etc.; history and geography etc. were combined into humanities.

Many individuals, including myself, did not particularly like these changes but the Department of Education did, and many teachers felt these subjects would suit their pupils better than the old rigidly academic categories.

Seven weeks ago, without any consultation or detailed plans or suggestion of a phased introduction, the Coalition Government produced a White Paper which will retrospectively renege on all previous measures. Schools that have been allowed to adopt wide ranging subjects to suit a broad range of pupils will now be penalised. This new measure takes no account of IT, religious studies, sport, vocational courses or arts subjects.

Unity is a specialist college in English and theatre studies but there will be no opportunity to demonstrate the success they have had in their specialism or its success in raising the 5A - C GCSE subjects over the past four years. All of the school’s curriculum strategies have been posited on that target set by the Department of Education.

At a stroke the new Minister Michael Gove has negated all the work and effort of teachers and pupils: his new league tables will in no way reflect the work, talent and abilities of the town’s pupils.

Does our MP agree with his Minister’s arbitrary and reactionary policy? Or does he, like me, see nothing Liberal or Democratic about it?