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I emailed Gavin Williamson…

Following on from Carol’s blog on the new GCSE’s, she went along to an event where Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, had been invited. She wanted to find out if there was any hope there…

“Thank you for taking the time to express your views about the current GCSEs.”  It sounds so polite, measured….”the recent reforms were far-reaching and teachers have told us that they need a period of stability in order to be able to introduce the changes successfully.”….so says Fern Wotton, from the  Ministerial and Public Communications Division.

Hasn’t the sound of stressed children and stressed teachers reached the ears of the Department for Education?  Have we really given the impression that if we have longer time teaching these new GCSEs we can somehow reduce the sheer volume of knowledge that our children will be tested on?  That we will be able to workout, by looking at past papers, which bits we are able to miss out, as they are not likely to come up in the exam? Our silence has not been deafening….our silence has been an excuse for the Dfe to think that the GCSEs are ok…..and they are not.

I know that I am not in the classroom at the moment, having finished earlier this year, but GCSEs have still loomed large. My youngest has just finished his GCSEs and I have been ask to tutor a Year 10 child who is struggling in Sciences and Maths.  He started his GCSEs in year 8. Chemistry in particular highlights his lack of underpinning understanding and knowledge. Practicals?….they do not seem to have had the time…..

Perhaps HODs are saying no, we would have to buy a load of new text books! The school I was in was still using the iGCSE Maths books, a qualification that they thought would be easier for their inner city children but then could not offer, being a State school. Easy iGCSEs are only for those privately educated it seems!

Next stop the Labour party, a meeting in Birmingham to which Angela Rayner Shadow Secretary of State for Education, had been invited. There was to be a question and answer session at the end, so I could raise my concerns then!  I had never been by myself to anything like that before, but thoughts of our own experience as a family and the students I had taught made me braver. I listened and watched with tears in my eyes as an EY Manager spoke with such passion about her hand to mouth  funding and the day to day effects it had, families not supported, Sure Start just a distant memory. More tears as a Special School Head, argued for funds, a HeadTeachers representative putting the lack of funding in context… is the same for most schools in Birmingham, and  so it seemed it went on. Why are we not putting our Children higher up the agenda? Don’t MPs have children too?

And then it was the turn of Anglea Rayner, who in described herself as a Grandmother, with a Grand daughter starting nursery, a mum of two, one of which defined her as a “tiger mum” of an SEND child. She understood what it was to fight for SEND funding, to worry about SATS. She did not just want a return to Sure Start but Sure Start plus, supporting families to make a lasing change. Her vision of a properly funded National Education Service, seemed to give Education the value it deserves. Education is life changing…it deserves to be funded properly.  Here are just a few of the points in Labours education policy, though I think it is worth a google to read them all!

  • Halt the closures of Sure Start centers and increase the amount of money for Sure Start
  • Introduce a fairer funding formula to reverse Conservative cuts in education.
  • Trust in teachers and support staff professionalism to refocus their workload on what happens in the classroom.
  • Seek to reduce class sizes to less than 30 for 5 – 7 year olds, and seek to extend as resources allow.
  • Abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments .

Etc etc!
However Angela Rayner did not say the most important one of all…..  

The Chair announced that it was Angela Rayner’s wedding anniversary, her husband was there and as she “had been so good as to attend the event there were to be quick photos but no question and answer session as advertised…”.  Nooooooo! What was I going to do! I had not made all that effort to attend and not flag up that I really believe Goves GCSEs are not fit for purpose…… I waved my hand as the Chair rounded everything up….I raced to the front the moment he had finished speaking! Excuse me but….I stammered….and it was fine.  “The current GCSEs are not fit for purpose there is too much content and too many exams.”

Angela Rayner grinning told me that I was not to worry as she was going to announce that the Labour party will launch a commission to look into the curriculum and assessment.  : ) 
And you know what? I believe her.  I think that if we truly care about our children we would bring back Sure Start, fund education properly so that eg. schools don’t have to get rid of all their TAs, take a new look at SATS and change our current GCSEs, especially the maths one! 

Now my youngest has just started his A Levels….what idiot thought that having a final exam after the end of 2 years was a good idea? I had a final exam after 2 years….I rather hoped that education would have moved on since then!

At the moment I am definitely going to vote Labour, for its Education policy. How could I possibly not? However, for my next Blog I though I would find out what the Liberal Democrats and Green Party’s Education policies are.

Please pass comments on this blog. I am acutely aware that when I was in the classroom earlier this year I would not have had time to catch my breath let alone write this blog. Are other teachers/parents angry like me? Are there other topics I should write about? Please make a comment and let me know.

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The author

Carol’s degree was Zoology Biochemistry Jt. Hons. She came into teaching saying ‘we need to teach our children thinking skills, to concentrate more, to improve their memory’. The only thing she could find was a Man Power Services book about study skills with Kim’s Game in it! She has watched the development and discovery of how students learn and remembers with relish and uses that knowledge often. As a Mum of five, former Infant school parent governor and helper, Secondary school parent governor, FE Visiting lecturer (Carol has taught numeracy, literacy, creative writing, help your child with Maths/English, family learning, employability, SEND learners, been paid to produce resources, HAZ family learning project developer and deliverer, Access tutor, Lectured University students against plagiarism, and taught them to budget on a student loan. Taught in schools 1 to 1 Maths, GCSE English/Maths and Sciences and lastly a training provider, GCSE Maths and English retakes, and functional English and private tutor. She is also the wife of a Secondary Headteacher, who having retired, got fed up of being at home and is now a Junior School TA. Her perspective is quite broad and deep!

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