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Gove’s ‘grade deflation’ farce

Capitalism declares war on education

Behold the miracles worked by the application of market principles to education!

Pretending concern over the number and differing quality of exam boards and the validity of the grades they award, education secretary Gove ignored the obvious solution (a single board under state control with a common set of criteria). 

Instead, he let it be known that in the coming ‘rationalisation’ the invisible hand of the market would fix everything, with weaker boards driven to the wall whilst fortune smiled on the survivors. Coincidentally he also dropped the hint that the key to survival in this competition would be the willingness to tackle ‘grade inflation’ – ie, stop awarding so many A, B and C grades.

Taking the hint, the exam boards fell over themselves to magic up a startling ‘grade deflation’, leaving thousands of students stranded in the ‘D’ and ‘E’ twilight zone specially reserved for those whom capitalism declares to be losers. Between January and June, the goalposts were shifted so that students who would have secured a ‘C’ in January were stuck with a ‘D’ in June, for producing exactly the same work.

As Gove presses on with his mission to transform every last LEA-funded secondary school into an academy, the agenda is clear. The harder it gets for secondary school students to score top grades, the faster Ofsted can declare their schools to be ‘failing’ and hence ripe for enforced rebranding as academies by private sponsors.

And now that schools have been told that the minimum percentage of pupils who manage to grab five high-grade GCSEs must be raised from 35 percent to 40 percent, Ofsted should have no difficulty in collecting the required quota of scalps.

Whilst Gove’s flat-footed tactics have had unintended shambolic consequences, there is nothing accidental about the underlying capitalist strategy: the abolition of free comprehensive schooling, dumbed-down education for the masses and a privileged education for the moneyed elite.

Whilst the NUT correctly calls for the immediate re-grading of July’s exams and mumbles about an ‘independent review’, working class students and their parents need to set their sights higher and campaign to abolish all private schools, academies, grammar schools and religious schools, establishing in their place free universal education for all.

It is the crisis of the capitalist system which is wrecking the educational prospects of a whole generation, a crisis which the working class did not create and for which they should refuse to take any responsibility. If capitalism is unable to provide for the educational needs of the workers, then let the workers look to the educational achievements of socialist countries like Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the historic Soviet Union.