‘Harder’ is not Harder – and the Twat

Schools Week has run an exclusive today stating how the paper has received figures signalling a significant drop in A-level entries in schools/colleges for next year. They claim the hardest hit is English as a subject and that the reason for this is the standards now expected of students – the implication, clearly, that these are higher/harder than previously.

One other detail in support of this is that students are receiving very low marks in their mock exams and this is adversely affecting their confidence in considering further study.

Well, it could be this. But I am not entirely convinced. The English GCSE is not harder in terms of the standards being set/required [taking out, for English Language, the significant increased weighting given to SPaG]. Not standards in terms of, for example, kinds of writing that will be required. Not standards in terms of, for further example, reading comprehension skills.

What has changed in one important aspect – dramatically so – is the nature of the required study. In English Literature, if you can no longer read and study an engaging and accessible text like Of Mice and Men, this will have a detrimental impact on enjoyment, meaningfulness and thus learning potential. If your choice of a 19th century text is the dense and at times linguistically turgid Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde [great story, but…] this will have an adverse effect on learning. If the examination for this is closed-book and entirely terminal [no coursework/tasks produced in class] this will have a catastrophic impact on the ability to demonstrate skills and understanding.

In English Language, I think the actual examination tasks are straightforward and mirrors of their previous, but it is again the 100% terminal examination that makes the most depressing impact [in both senses of the word] as well as, already mentioned, SPaG weighting in Writing.

And there is considerably more detail I could provide about texts and timings and other content, and that 100% terminal exam shift – including the removal of Speaking and Listening assessment from overall marks – that paint a broader picture, but what I have already mentioned and this other are not collectively about setting ‘higher’ standards, and I don’t like the word ‘harder’ either, though these two GCSEs will be harder, yes.

More important, they will be boring. They will be tedious. They will be so focused on examination outcomes – and the conditions in which these will now be wholly realised – that all of this is what will make levels of ‘achievement’ harder to attain.

Teachers teaching these new GCSEs will be more weary [though as committed and hard-working and innovative and inspirational as they can be at any given opportunity] yet they will be preoccupied with covering the amount of content and the kind/type of content. This is not about teaching and setting ‘higher’ standards [and I am avoiding using that word ‘harder’ because it has a duplicitous meaning – oh the punning again – in this context]. I don’t want the politicians and other philistines stating these new GCSEs are ‘harder’ to imply ‘higher’ standards – more demanding academically – when really what it mainly amounts to is a hard slog of practicalities over and above teaching and learning.

So I am also a little disappointed that Schools Week hasn’t made this clear and tended to deal in the superficialities of this set of figures and the presumed reasons for their impact.

I did get through all of that without mentioning Michael Gove, but he is by and large the monster architect twat responsible for all of this.

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One thought on “‘Harder’ is not Harder – and the Twat

  1. Yes-a weary slog it certainly is ( Language especially) and an unfair one for so many students with an untiered paper and tricky unseen texts. Gove has much to answer for. So much.

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