The GCSE debacle – a harsh but important lesson to Britain’s young people about the grim realities of Tory Britain
The debacle over the downgrading of GCSE results serves to deliver a harsh but important lesson to Britain’s young people about the grim realities of Tory Britain. You have to wonder whether Education Secretary Michael Gove had been getting ideas from the old adage about taking candy from a baby when he decided to deliberately downgrade GCSE-results mid-year.
Yet this whole fiasco strikes me as a powerful metaphor which encapsulates the flawed policies of this Government. And the message is clear: the deal you get from the Tories isn’t about equity or fairness but about circumstance.
I mean, seriously, how low is this Tory-led Government prepared to go?
I’d like to see Mr Gove try to justify his excuse that the policy was to counter so-called “grade inflation” to the many 16-year-olds who have been affected. Those young people must carry a D-grade on their CVs instead of a C-grade for the rest of their lives – just because their coursework was submitted in the summer instead of the winter.
It is patently unfair. But then fairness doesn’t appear to be a word the Tories comprehend.
They certainly weren’t thinking about fairness when they decided to offer a tax break to Britain’s millionaires in the last budget, while simultaneously heaping more pressure on those struggling to make ends meet. Fairness wasn’t on the agenda when the Government announced changes to council tax benefit schemes which will force local authorities, against their wishes, to turn the knife on society’s most vulnerable forcing many into poverty. Nor was it fair when student tuition fees were pushed through the roof, when the public were denied a judge-led inquiry into the Libor banking scandal, or when the Tories proposed hair-brained taxes on charities, caravans, skips and even pasties.
But it is not just the unfairness of the GCSE grading farce which baffles me; moreover it is the apparent lack of thought, logic or justification.
If Mr Gove really believes the step was necessary due to steadily improving grades over a number of years, then why do it mid-year? Surely this will just muddy the waters for years to come because 2011-12 will forever be the academic year for which the statistics were twisted by dodgy accounting. It would have made much more sense to make such a change between academic years rather than during one.
Yet there is little point in analysing the whys and wherefores of this decision – to do so gives the Government too much credit.
The reality is that there was no logic to the decision because it was taken hastily without proper consideration. It is not the first such action since the Tory-Lib Dem coalition stumbled into Government and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last. And that’s the lesson that our young people can learn from this shameful situation.
While the travesty over GCSE grades might seem to some like a fairly minor sham compared to some of the others we’ve seen along the way, it is indicative of what this Government stands for.
The social experiment being forced on Britain is neither about fairness nor logic but about political dogma. We’ve got a shrunken, battered economy to show for it along with a growing list of victims.
The 16-year-olds whose GCSE papers were marked down are the latest to join that list, but the light at the end of the tunnel may yet be that it is the Tories and Lib Dems whose scores ultimately suffer at the ballot box.
Chris Williamson is the Labour MP for Derby North