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"Bribing" schools to do GCSE MFL

I read that the Conservatives intend to get Ofsted to only award Good and Outstanding grades to schools where all pupils do EBacc subjects to GCSE. This is part of their agenda for all students, whatever their interests and abilities, to have access to an academic curriculum. It has been calculated that only two schools in England would currently get a Good or Outstanding on this basis!

Firstly, there is an issue regarding the independence of Ofsted who are supposed to be immune from political interference, but I shall put that to one side.

Secondly, there is the major issue regarding whether all students should be doing a very similar curriculum up to 16. I understand the argument being made. All students, it is claimed, should have access to what middle class students study and we should not be offering some kind of easier, second class curriculum to some students. It's the old sheep and goats/education versus training argument which has been debated for years.

I happen to lean towards a curriculum design which suits each pupil's needs and which does not necessarily value traditional subjects over others, but that is not really my point here either.

What I find strange is the notion that the inspection and accountability systems are being used to lean on schools to favour some subjects over others. When Gove introduced the EBacc measure as a means to get more students doing languages, science and humanities, I thought, at the time, that it was a crafty move. (We have since learned from Sam Freedman, adviser to Gove at the time, that the policy was fairly off the cuff and the name decided upon at the last minute in time for an interview on the Andrew Marr show.) Indeed, numbers taking languages have risen a little, even if only temporarily. I now think it was a wrong-headed decision which stemmed from an ideological belief in school autonomy.

If the government thinks all children should do MFL to 16, they should just say so and make it compulsory. That would be the honest approach.

Their policy reveals an underlying uncertainty about this issue. It seems that they want more children doing languages, but not all, and are using the accountability system to twist the arms of heads, effectively bribe them, to get more pupils following the traditional academic route.

For the record, I have serious doubts about a languages for all policy in the UK, but if we were to go down that route we should do it honestly and design courses that cater for the needs of all students.





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