‘If you’ve got English, maths and science that’s fantastic, but does every single plumber, every single car mechanic, every single doctor, solicitor, barrister need to have history, geography or a modern language? I would probably say not.’
These words, from a headteacher in Liverpool, cut to the heart of England’s ongoing battle over education, and lie behind the changes to GCSEs - the first results of which we will see today. Parents and students may be confused by some of the changes, but they should not doubt that they are part of an ongoing project to confront the soft bigotry of low expectations embodied in that headteacher’s quote. The new GCSEs are a vital reform to challenge a failing system.
New Labour’s educational vision was famously core to its being—all three of Tony Blair’s priorities for government were “education”—and the extra money which flowed through the doors of schools resulted in new buildings and more staff.