A history of climbdowns: five recent DfE U-turns
Tory education ministers have plenty of form for big policy U-turns as these five examples reveal:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.