A history of climbdowns: five recent DfE U-turns

Today's retreat from all-out forced academisation is not the first time Conservative education ministers have had to publicly rethink their plans

Helen Ward

News article image

Tory education ministers have plenty of form for big policy U-turns as these five examples reveal:

  1. The key stage 1 spelling, punctuation and grammar test

    All six and seven-year-olds were to be tested this month, for the first time, on their knowledge of commas, exclamation marks and their spelling. Until, that is, the DfE accidentally published the spelling paper on its website. Then it decided they didn’t need to be tested after all.
  2. Baseline assessments 

    They were introduced for primary schools by the goverment in September as the basis of a new progress accountability measure. But last month it emerged that research had found that the three approved baseline assessments were not comparable and now their use for accountability has been scrapped. Instead KS1 assessments will continue to be used as a progress measure. However, the government has not ruled out the possibility of a U-turn on this U-turn and the introduction of a new school readiness measure.
  3. English Baccalaureate Certificates

    English Baccalaureate Certificates were proposed by former education secretary Michael Gove as a replacement for GCSEs. But in February 2013, they were dropped with Mr Gove telling Parliament that they were “a bridge too far”. Instead, he said he would reform GCSEs which would have a new grading structure and there would be an end to modules.
  4. Single board exams

    Mr Gove also proposed ending a "race to the bottom" in exam standards with a franchising system where each subject would be run by a single exam board. But headteachers, regulator Ofqual and the Commons education committee all warned that the plans could lead to higher prices and smaller subjects disappearing. The plan was abandoned along with EBCs.
  5. Forced universal academisation

    Today education secretary Nicky Morgan said that not all schools will have to become academies – just a week after saying there was "no reverse gear" on the policy. The U-turn came after opposition to the plans quickly snowballed with headteachers, MPs and councillors – including Conservatives – criticising the idea.




Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook




Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

Latest stories

Amanda Gorman Poetry Lesson Poet

Amanda Gorman: everything you need to know

Poet Amanda Gorman made headlines this week after her performance at President Biden's inauguration. Here's the lowdown on who she is, and why your students might be asking about her
Grainne Hallahan 22 Jan 2021
Tes FE Awards: entires open for 2021

Tes FE Awards 2021 open for entries

FE's leading awards celebrate the very best of the further education and skills sector - and now is the time to put forward your colleagues, teams or institutions
Kate Parker 22 Jan 2021
Covid in schools, GCSEs 2021, teacher safety: LIVE

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 21/1

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 21 Jan 2021