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Lucy Sherriff

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Does Michael Gove Have Any Idea What He's Doing to Our Country's Youths?

Posted: 02/09/2013 10:17

It's a question I ask myself often. And the only answer I can come up with is a resounding "no".

Michael Gove will no doubt be giving himself a large pat on the back today after pushing through reforms to force teenagers to re-sit exams until they pass maths and English GCSEs. Oh, and they also have had their choice about whether to stay on at school or go into work stripped from them.

On the surface, this doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Keep the young generation in class and "off the streets" (such an easy generalisation, isn't it?), educate them to a higher level and therefore improve their employability prospects.

But I'm urging you to look beyond these lazy assumptions. Have a think about that talented 16-year-old mechanic, who can't spell too well or write lengthy, argumentative essays, but knows everything there is to know about engines, and is desperate to escape, sign up for full time work, and starting earning her way in the world. Well unfortunately for her, she can't now, as she's stuck in class until she can pass her English GCSE.

Have a think about that bright young aspiring journalist, whose been offered a traineeship on his local paper, but now can't leave school as he really struggles with working out the value of x - and doesn't really want to take evening classes thank you very much.

Have a think about all those teenagers who aced their English and maths GCSE, but don't want to do A-levels, because, shock horror, they just don't really enjoy learning at school. They want to learn in the real world. They want to get a job at 16 and work their way up that way because regurgitating facts from a textbook under timed conditions just doesn't really do it for them.

Over the weekend, we published a blog by one A-level student who gave his views on the reforms. And guess what? He thought they sucked. "Is this a good idea?" he asked.

"The simple answer is: No," he continued. "Not everyone blossoms at school, and to force those who are desperate to leave and start work is surely detrimental. The fact that at 16 you can choose to remain in education is very important: taking away that choice is only punishing those who do not wish to stay."

This rather well-educated young chap makes another very valid point: the students who are being forced to stay at school may decide to play up in class, which will have a direct impact on those who do wish to be there.

And all this is coming not from a teaching union or politician, but instead from one of those very people you are trying to "help", Mr Gove. I suggest you listen up.

Finally, let's consider those disadvantaged young people, the ones who really need our help. The ones who struggle to afford the bus fare to school and for which the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) was a devastating blow to. The ones who have to choose between a hot meal and getting to school (as Barnardo's warned yesterday). Well it's good news for you, kids: you're now going to have to do this for a whole extra year, and in 2015, you can make that two more years.

After giving it a go, these teens might think "screw it, I'm not doing this anymore" and just bunk off instead. And to be honest, who'd blame them?

One size does not fit all, Mr Gove, and it's probably about time you realised that.

 

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