Reforming the curriculum

Posted on 07th June 2019

In an article for TES, Head of Bedales Magnus Basharaat takes issue with schools minister Nick Gibb’s recent defence in The Times of GCSE reforms, at the heart of which sits the prioritisation of a handful of subjects – notably maths and the sciences, and others making up the English Baccalaureate.

The restoration of rigour forms the thrust of the minister’s argument – GCSEs, we learn, were intended to bring clarity and consistency to examinations: students would be rigorously tested on their mastery of a subject, while teachers and employers would know exactly what the resulting grade meant.

However, says Magnus, rigour is a quality applied only selectively by Mr Gibb himself. Magnus observes that rigour demands that competing arguments at least be considered, even if they are then dismissed, but that Mr Gibb fails to acknowledge concerns on issues such as the narrowing of the national curriculum to marginalise creative subjects, GCSEs’ continued fitness for purpose, and the relationship between adolescent mental health and a burgeoning exam culture.

He concludes: “GCSEs are dull, narrow and stifle creative teaching, which is why Bedales abandoned all non-core GCSEs for our own more interesting and challenging Bedales Assessed Courses with their wider range of assessment methods and group work. And because everyone now has to stay in full-time education, or follow an apprenticeship or training, until the age of 18, there is little point to an exam that was introduced at a time when pupils could leave school aged 16 qualified, and get a job. The clamour for change grows by the day, and even if he does not agree with it, rigour surely requires Mr Gibb to at least acknowledge it.”

The full article can be read on the TES website (subscription may be required). 

TES | Magnus Bashaarat | Bedales Assessed Courses