The recent cabinet reshuffle has seen Michael Gove leave his post as Education Secretary and it seems, from the strikes from the teachers union, that much of society are happy to hear of this news. In this instance I do not take one particular stand point (in fact, in politics in general I have learned not to take sides because, well, no political party is ever going to perfect in my opinion…), therefore I decided to embark on some research to find out whether or not the changes Michael Gove has made to the education system have actually been as bad as society claims them to be.
As those of you who already study sociology will know, the sociology of education surrounds three main areas: the race, gender and class gaps in educational attainment. Much of the education secretary’s job role is to be devoted to addressing these issues in order to try and bring the UK closer to that all-important meritocratic system of education (in other words, an education which provides equal opportunities for all of society). So what has Michael Gove done to try and reach this? And has he ‘ruined education’ as the teachers union have suggested?
What changes has he made to the education system?…
- The restructuring of assessment, i.e. fewer re-sits (I am hoping to do another blog which looks at the effect of this in more detail so keep a look out!).
- Changes to the national curriculum including making it less ethnocentric as well as making it harder (again, I may well do a blog which looks at the effect of such a change).
- Aimed to destroy the barrier between state and private education by making state schools more similar to private schools, for example, introducing a common entrance test to make schools more select about their admissions and forcing them into teaching for a longer number of hours in the day.
- The introduction of academies (these are stated funded but operate outside of the national curriculum and of local authority control. The funding they are given from the government is allowed to be spent on what they wish. Please read this article for more information about academies… http://www.newstatesman.com/education/2012/03/academy-schools-academies)
The question I ask is this: Have academies been beneficial to the education system?
In one respect they have been beneficial to the individual school because they can focus on spending their money on their specific needs, therefore creating a better education for those pupils. But are they actually any better than state schools? Well…evidence suggests that grades are higher in academies and it is suggested that high performing academies can aid the poor performing schools, however, since they can spend money as they wish there is no guarantee that this would happen. So what happens to those schools which do not become academies? The answer…they fall behind. This mean academies are given higher status to their state school counterparts and it is at this point that it seems we once again have an education system which segregates pupils. Because, much like the Tripartite system, whilst the more intelligent (which schools see as the ‘middle’ and ‘upper’ classes) are admitted to the academies (or the grammar schools as it were in the early 20th century), everybody else (the working class) are left to attend the schools which have less focus put upon them.
To sum up, it seems that Michael Gove did make education less ethnocentric (or at least his policies aimed to cater for more ethnic and racial perspectives in the national curriculum) but he has also sparked the potential increased gap in class attainment. However, I believe it is too early to accurately measure the effect of such changes since his policies have only recently been implemented. It would be interesting to see how GCSE and A-Level results in the near future compare with those in the past.
If you are interested in the topic of gender, race and class gaps in education attainment then keep an eye on my blog page since the topic of education is a passion of mine so I am sure to write even more blogs on them!
I looked at this article to help me with this blog…