Raising the standard

June 29, 2011, 8:06 PM GMT+0

Nearly two in five British people think that Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove’s benchmark for underperforming schools is ‘about right’, our poll reveals.

Schools are currently regarded as underperforming if less than 35% of pupils achieve at least five GCSEs at grades A*to C including English and Maths. Gove is expected to increase this figure to 50%, a proposal that nearly a third of those polled say is ‘not ambitious enough’, and nearly a quarter label ‘over ambitious’.

The Government has also announced plans stating that school league tables will only reflect the proportion of students who achieve GCSEs in core subjects like Science, Maths and English. When asked to select from a list of subjects which could count towards school’s league position tables, nine out of ten people selected Maths, closely followed by English Language and Science. Nearly seven in ten said English literature and History, and two thirds selected modern foreign languages.

  • 37% of British people say that Michael Gove’s planned increase to the percentage of pupils in each secondary school in England who must achieve at least five GCSE’s at grades A* to C from 35% to 50% is ‘about right’
  • 31% say the planned 15% increase is ‘not ambitious enough’
  • While 23% label the proposal as ‘over ambitious’
  • When asked which from a list of common GCSE subjects they thought should count towards school's league table positions, 90% of people selected Maths
  • While 87% went with English Language, 83% selected Science, 68% thought English Literature and 67% picked History
  • Modern foreign languages, including French, German and Spanish, was also a popular choice with 66% of people selecting the subject; 65% thought Geography should be included and 58% selected Information and Communication Technology
  • The least popular subjects in our poll included Media Studies with 16%, Drama with 11% and Dance, which just 7% of Brits thought should count towards school league tables

The poll comes amid a string of new proposals announced by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, who has said he wants to put an end to what he claims is a ‘low expectations culture’ in some schools.

'Interference and threats'?

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has said: ‘Can this be the same Michael Gove who criticised Gordon Brown in 2007, saying that 'A decade of top down targets has failed to raise achievement but all he offers today is more of the same'?’ She stated that attainment would be move likely to improve if the Government concentrated on offering schools ‘support and encouragement’ rather than ‘interference and threats’.

The requirement for English and Maths GCSE was added to benchmark measures in 2007 due to fears that schools were relying too much on vocational exams to boost their ratings. Proposals now say that school league tables will only reflect the proportion of students who achieve GCSEs in core subjects like Science, Maths, English, History and Geography. The Government has said that this is aimed at discouraging schools from pushing students towards ‘easier’ subjects to improve their league table position.

Gove’s latest proposal involves limiting the numbers of times potential teachers can take numeracy and literacy tests before qualifying (currently unlimited), while he has also been asking teachers to reconsider the strike action unions have planned for this week.