The GCSE results have fallen for the first time ever. Only by 0.4% but a fall nonetheless. 0.4% is a small percentage and as they go up every year you could say that it is right that they could fall. This is a persuasive argument but ignores the impact the GCSE readjustment has on both students and schools.
The cause of the fall is not a fall in the ability of the students. Education like any other field improves over time: Athletes are running faster now than they did 20 years ago. Medicines have been developed to treat diseases that were previously fatal. Space scientists have landed a huge remote controlled jeep on Mars. There is a climbing analogy that is even better: 30 years ago very few people had climbed Everest; now it is summited on almost every day during May by multiple groups of climbers. Has Everest got smaller? No, but the people who climb it are better equipped for it than the previous generation. Progress is being made in almost every sphere of human endeavour. It is seen as a good thing in athletics, medicine and in space, why not education?
The previous generation may well be uncomfortable with the progress in education. They look back with rose tinted spectacles at a golden age when they did long division at primary school, (incorrectly believing that primary school children no longer learn how to do long division) and think that standards have slipped. This illusion is due the in part to the comprehensive nature of our education system. O-Levels were only done by people who passed the 11 plus. Comparisons between GCSEs and O-Levels and fail to take this into account.
0.4% is a small decrease but it hides the impact his readjustment has on the factor by which schools are measured. The Education Secretary (whose policy disasters are outlined here) has put pressure on exam boards and his English meddling half way through the academic year does the most damage: Between 4000 and 10 000 real young people with hopes and aspirations will be affected. The impact on the students will be felt by them for many years to come, they will feel cheated and rightly so, if they had sat the English GCSEs in January they would have beaten Goves cynical adjustment. Unfortunatly then can't turn back the clock, nor can then fill in an application form like this; "GCSE English - D (Downgraded by Gove)" Good schools with hardworking teachers are taking a massive hit on their percentage of pupils achieving 5 A* to C including English and Maths; that means that Gove has an excuse to academy-fy or close and reopen a 'free' school down the road.
This is not about improving academic standards. It is about giving a slice of the education budget to private companies. It is as ideological as when Thatcher fought the Unions in the 1980s. Gove is setting himself against the teaching profession in order to impress those in his own Party. Gove is building an education system more suited to 1950s Britain and he is a danger to the future competitiveness of our country.