Curbing early exam entry will cheat our students

11th October 2013 at 01:00

I am a senior leader at a school that has just undergone a "robust" inspection. Last week we also had to deal with a futile strike and the announcement from Michael Gove that only the first entry for an exam would count towards league tables.

In trying to assure our students the best education possible we are caught between naive, blinkered and self-absorbed unions on the one side and a naive, blinkered and self-absorbed education secretary on the other. In the land of the blind, those trying to use both eyes appear to have no chance.

The announced reform to early exam entry is one of the most fundamental changes to education in recent years. It forces schools to put the interests of league tables and judgements from the inspectorate Ofsted ahead of their students. It deprives children of the opportunity to refine and develop, to focus on why they didn't achieve the first time and to have a second attempt at opening the doors to their future. And the pressure on staff from this last-minute change is immense. They also have to face the ire of parents who blame the school and not the education secretary.

This issue should have been the cause celebre of the education community. Instead, the teaching unions went ahead with a strike in my region on 1 October, which had no impact aside from depriving students of a day of learning and inconveniencing many parents. The navel-gazing of the unions is ineffective in achieving their aims and damaging to the education of our children. We have an education secretary driven by dogma and narrow-minded opinions. Yet at almost every turn he is outwitting and out-planning the teaching unions.

Teaching is not banking. None of us enters the profession for the high rewards and the glamour of the lifestyle. We enter it to make a difference and offer futures, not destinies. Mr Gove threatens to undermine this. And the myopic approach of the teaching unions is his greatest ally in doing so.

Paul Oliver, West Yorkshire.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today