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Gove's reforms have driven me back to Scotland, says leading head

Reporting by Julia Horton

A leading private-school headteacher has revealed that Michael Gove’s "narrow, backward-looking" policies were a key factor in her decision to leave England and return to her native Scotland.

Dorothy MacGinty (pictured) said that the former Westminster education secretary – whose legacy continues, despite his dismissal in the recent cabinet shake-up – had taken schools south of the border "backwards".

The headteacher, who will take the helm of Scotland’s only independent Catholic girls’ school next year, accused Mr Gove of having created a damaging focus on exams that did not equip pupils with the skills needed for today’s jobs market.

By contrast, she said, the Scottish government’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was "fantastic" and provided the kind of "soft skills" demanded by modern employers.

Her comments came in the same week that Tony Little, headmaster of the prestigious Eton College, declared that the English exam system was "Victorian" and failed to adequately prepare students for the workplace.

Ms MacGinty, who was born and raised in Scotland but has taught in England for nearly 30 years, is stepping down after five years as head of St Francis’ College in Hertfordshire to become principal of Kilgraston in Perthshire next Easter.

The respected headteacher, who also chairs the Girls’ Schools Association’s professional development committee, told TES Scotland: "Gove’s policies are not the only reason I am coming back but they are one of the reasons why I am returning.

"England has gone back to measuring success by exams and pupils don’t learn the skills they need.

"I think Curriculum for Excellence is fantastic. It’s going in the opposite direction to what they are doing in England at the moment by developing the kind of soft, collaborative skills which young people need today."

The UK government’s Department for Education defended Mr Gove’s radical reforms, which were introduced to address concern over grade inflation in GCSEs and A-levels.

CfE was launched in 2004 to simplify assessments and qualifications and provide greater choice and more opportunities for earlier in-depth study within a broad curriculum.

It is designed to give all children and young people four key capacities – to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors in society and at work.

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